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Earth's Biosphere

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Natural Farming Dept.

Pipelines & Fracking Dept.

Dakota Access Pipeline

Mountaintop Removal Mining

Water Dept.

Eco-News Dept.

"To paraphrase the Christian Bible (Matthew 16): For what is a man profited if he shall make beaucoup bucks
while transforming the planet into a cesspool."  — G.E. Nordell

Union of Concerned Scientists re global warming
American Forests [est. 1875]
       Save The Redwoods League [est. 1918]       
SafeClimate        Grist: A Beacon In The Smog weblog [est. 1999]
Eco Timber flooring [est. 1992]
       Lester Brown's Earth Policy Institute [est. 2001] based in Washington, DC

Center for EcoLiteracy [est.1995]        Arbor Day - Plant a tree!        Earthweek: A Diary of The Planet - ecological news site 
    [est. 1988]

envirofinder search engine
U.S. Forest Circus {satirical website}
Clean Beaches Coalition [est. 1998]
Basel Action Network - against 'Toxic Trade'
W.W.F. Intl. Conference on Climate Change [Nov-Dec 2005] in Montreal, PQ Canada
'The Bush Record on the Environment' at N.R.D.C.
"An Evangelical Declaration On The Care of Creation"
EarthJustice: Because the earth needs a good lawyer [est. 1971]
The Grantham Prize: Honoring Exceptional Environmental Journalism
EarthShare, based in Bethesda, MD
Friends of The Earth USA [est. 1969] offices in DC & CA
Friends of The Earth Intl. [est. 1971] is based in The Netherlands
Center for Biological Diversity [est. 1989] is based in Tucson, Arizona
Blacksmith Institute anti-pollution solutions [est. 1999] based in New York City
African American Environmentalist Association [est. 1985] of Washington, DC
Environmental Defense Fund [est. 1967] based in New York City & Washington, DC
State of California Climate Change Portal
Sierra Club - Rio Grande Chapter [] based in Santa Fe, New Mexico
CELDF: Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund [est. 1995] based in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania
Environment News Service [est. 1990]

Action Network Environmental Defense

League of Conservation Voters [est. 1969] headquartered in Washington, DC

Climate Central [est. 2008] website

The U.S. Census Bureau no longer provides a real-time population clock (2010).
display of today's U.S. population estimate
display of today's world population estimate

Selected Books on the Subject of the Earth's Biosphere

Selected Movies on the Subject of the Earth's Biosphere

WMail Essay #28 [October 2002] "Waste Not, Want Not"
WMail Essay #60 [June 2006] "Climate & Politics"
WMail Essay #66 [December 2006] "Cooling The Planet"
Working Minds Essay #104 [May 2013] "No Water For You"
Working Minds Essay #108 [July 2015] "Civilization Is Imploding"

fresh local produce
Natural Farming Dept.
“Food is an important part of a balanced diet.” ~~ Fran Lebowitz

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds [est. 1998] in Mansfield, Missouri
Seeds of Change [est. 1989] 100% certified organic seeds, based in Southern California
BLACK STAR: very negative business reputation - delays, excuses, dead plants, nasty customer service workers  Farmer Seed & Nursery {div of Plantron, Inc.} in Minnesota :: negative business reputation
Organic Farming Works website [est. 2008] based in Minnesota
Organic Farming Works - Resources Page
NEON: The Northeast Organic Network [est. 2001] based at Cornell University
Center for Rural Affairs [est. 1973] based in Lyons, Nebraska
F.F.A.: Future Farmers of America [est. 1928] based in Indianapolis, Indiana
F.F.A. New Century Farmer Conference [July 2013] in Des Moines, Iowa
Intermountain Farmers Assn. [est. 1923] owns 24 stores in Utah, CO, NV, Idaho & NM
New Mexico Organic Farming Conference [Feb 2014 = #?] in Albuquerque, NM
Bee Culture: The Magazine of American Beekeeping [est. 1873]
National Honey Board [est. 2008] based in Firestone, Colorado
Friends of The Earth USA / Bee Bold Project

Richard 'Bug Man' Fagerlund of Veguita, New Mexico
'Ask The Bugman' websiteBugman's Bug Club [new 2013]Richard Fagerlund Page at Amazon

Mohamed Hijri "A simple solution to the coming phosphorus crisis" March 2012 TED Talk [in French w/English subtitles; 13:41]

American Tractors & Farm Equipment Page
at Spirit of America Bookstore

Working Minds / Movies About Health / Farming & Food Safety Dept.

Working Minds / Books About Health / Farming & Food Safety Dept.


Penton Media, Inc. [est. 1892] publishes a multitude of trade magazines, including these five (which are geared toward real farmers only).
Western Farm Press {AZ, CA}   •    Southwest Farm Press {KS, NM, OK, TX}   •    Delta Farm Press {AR, LA, MS, MO}
Southeast Farm Press {AL to WV}   •    Western Farmer-Stockman {CO, ID, MT, NV, OR, UT, WA, WY}

National Farmers Magazine [est. 1877] of the National Farmers Organization, based in Ames, Iowa
National Farmers

print is available with membership, digital issues available online

publisher N.F.O. website
N.F.O. entry at Wikipedia

1944 cover of combined Farm Journal Magazine and Farmer's Wife magazine
Farm Journal
Magazine [est. 1877]

subscribe at Amazon
12 issues/year for $26.95

magazine website

Organic Farming Magazine [] subscription
Organic Farming

subscribe at Amazon
3 issues/year for $45.72

U.K. magazine website

Modern Farmer Magazine [est. 2013] subscription
Modern Farmer

international farming news

subscribe at Amazon
4 issues/year for $29.97

Modern Farmer Media website

Successful Farming Magazine [] subscription
Successful Farming

subscribe directly
13 issues/year for $15.95

magazine website

Farm and Ranch Living Magazine
Farm & Ranch Living
Magazine [est. 1978]

subscribe at Amazon
7 issues/year for $17.98

magazine website


Genetically-Modified Organisms {G.M.O. food products} are the opposite of natural farming practices
The The Monsanto Company, Inc [est. 1901] is the biggest purveyor of G.M.O. foods and other G.M.O. products, so Monsanto is the focus of the anti-G.M.O. movement.
The first requirement is for American food packaging to display G.M.O. ingredients, followed by federal laws to regulate testing and environmental protection.

BLACK STAR: supposedly formed as a rebuttal to the documentary film "Food, Inc." backers include cattlemen, pork farmers, corn growers, Dupont, and Monsanto  'Food Dialogues' propaganda campaign of U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance [est. 2011] {partly funded by Monsanto}

March Against Monsanto [May & October 2016] in over 400 cities in over 50 countries


logo for the National Farmers Union [est. 1902] - 'United To Grow Family Agriculture'
National Farmers Union [est. 1902] based in Washington, DC
official websiteWikipedia

Oregon Farmers Union [est. 1906]
Utah Farmers Union [] based in Lehi, Utah

Kansas Farmers Union [] branch of the National Farmers Union [est. 1902]            Nebraska Farmers Union [] branch of the National Farmers Union [est. 1902]            American Farmers & Ranchers Insurance of Oklahoma [est. 1906] branch of the National Farmers Union [est. 1902]            South Dakota Farmers Union [est. 1914] branch of the National Farmers Union [est. 1902]            Texas Farmers Union [est. 1914] branch  of the National Farmers Union [est. 1902]

Rocky Mountain Farmers Union serving New Mexico & Colorado & Wyoming [est. 1907] branch of the National Farmers Union [est. 1902]            Montana Farmers Union [est. 1916]  branch of the National Farmers Union [est. 1902]            North Dakota Farmers Union [est. 1927] branch of the National Farmers  Union [est. 1902]


American Farm Bureau Federation [est. 1919] based in Washington, DC
official websiteWikipedia
Idaho Farm Bureau Federation [] based in Pocatello, Idaho
Kansas Farm Bureau Federation [est. 1919] based in Manhattan, Kansas
North Dakota Farm Bureau [est. 1941] based in Fargo, North Dakota
Oregon Farm Bureau [est. 1919] based in Salem, Oregon
South Dakota Farm Bureau Federation [est. 1917] based in Huron, South Dakots
Texas Farm Bureau Federation [est. 1933] based in Waco, Texas
Utah Farm Bureau Federation [est. 1916] based in Sandy, Utah
Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation [est. 1920] based in Laramie, Wyoming

Oil Pipelines & Hydraulic Fracturing Dept.

Working Minds / Worry About / Hydraulic Fracturing Page
was split off in Spring 2014

Working Minds / Worry About / Pipeline Disasters Page
was split off in Spring 2015

Dakota Access Pipeline Dept.

D.A.P.L. Standing Rock September 2016 sunrise at protester camp         D.A.P.L. Standing Rock September 2016 protesters chasing security trucks away         D.A.P.L. Standing Rock November 2016 protesters confront security Humvees         D.A.P.L. Standing Rock December 2016 winter at protesters camp
D.A.P.L. Standing Rock February 2017 protesters camp set on fire         D.A.P.L. Standing Rock February 2017 protesters facing riot police

  • 2017 June 14: U.S. District Judge James Boasberg in Washington ordered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reconsider its environmental review of the Dakota Access Pipeline, saying that the Army Corps did not adequately consider the effects of a possible oil spill on the fishing and hunting rights of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe; this opened up the possibility that the pipeline could be shut down at a later date.

    Mountaintop Removal Mining Dept.
    U.S. Dept. of The Interior / Office of Surface Mining Reclamation & Enforcement
    Sierra Club 'Dirty Coal' pages
    West Virginia Highlands Conservancy [est. 1967]
    Natural Resources Defense Council [est. 1970] Mountaintop Removal Mining Dept.
    Appalachian Mountain Advocates [est. 2002] based in Lewisburg, WV
    Coal River Mountain Watch [est. 2002] based in Naoma, WV
    'i Love Mountains' coalition website [est. 2006] based in Boone, NC
    Alliance for Appalachia [est. 2008]
    Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards [est. 2009] based in Big Stone Gap, Virginia

    Water Dept.
    nifty tools to measure garden hose output
    Freeflo: A Global Water Network [est. 2008]
    Waterwise home & office water distillation systems
    Affordable Water Co. [est. 1956] in Dayton, Ohio
    Water Quality Assn. based in Illinois
    Oceana Foundation: Protecting The World's Oceans [est. 2001]
    Save Our Groundwater [est. 2001] based in New Hampshire
    Sweetwater Alliance [est. 2002] based in Duluth, Minnesota
    Amigos Bravos - Friends of the Wild Rivers - Because Water Matters [est. 1988] based in Taos, NM

    Clean Water Network [est. 1992] is based in Washington, DC
    Florida Clean Water Network [est. 1994] in Navarre, Florida

    Selected Books on The Water Crisis

    suggested by a young 4-H member  filtered water bottles info at The Water Page U.K. website

    Brita Bottle Water Filtration System  Brita™ Bottle Water Filtration System
    single 24-ounce bottle with filter (blue or violet) for $8.50
    twin-pack 24-ounce bottles (two color choices) for $14.99
    3-pack 20-ounce bottles & 6 filters (2 blue, 1 green) for $22.42
    two replacement filters for $6.88
    Rubbermaid Filtration Personal Water Bottles  Rubbermaid™ Filtration Personal Water Bottle
    single 20-ounce bottle with filter (black, green or purple) for $9.99
    single 20-ounce bottle with filter (blue) for $9.99
    two replacement filters for $9.99
    Bobble Bottles Reusable Water Bottle  Bobble Bottles™ Reusable Water Bottle
    single 18.5-ounce bottle with filter (six color choices) for $9.47 to $14.90
    replacement filter (10 color choices) for $6.53 to $11.84


           "We are the only species able to change the natural world, so we must be stewards of the world."
           — primatologist Jane Goodall

           "If you've seen one redwood tree, you've seen them all."
           — Ronald Reagan [1911-2004]

           "Treat the earth kindly, my friends, and it will give you comfort, security, and all [that] a man may need. If you plant a flake of gold in the earth, will anything come of it? But plant a seed and it will repay you many times over."
           — Louis L'Amour [in "The Comstock"]

           "Science has proven the existence of global warming. So our position is like the moment in the old tales when you smell the dragon. The only question is which way to run – run or die!
           Mankind must reverse global warming or die."
           — G.E. Nordell

    February 2017 Oroville Dam evacuation

    Oroville Dam February 9: damage to spillway          Oroville Dam February 12: further damage to spillway           Oroville Dam February 13: after use of the emergency spillway

         Heavy rains over Northern California on Wednesday 8 February 2017 filled Oroville Lake to overflowing. By next day, workers at Oroville Dam had opened the spillway (to the left of the main dam) and discovered that it was damaged: a crater about one-third down had opened up, and was about 200 feet wide and thirty feet deep (see first photo). Officials hoped that using the spillway would lower the lake's content enough, but the damage grew worse - 500-feet wide and 45 feet deep (see second photo) - and threatened power lines. So the flow on the spillway was reduced early on February 11, forcing overflow to the auxiliary (emergency) spillway, which had never before been used. Fearing a possible 30-foot vertical breach of either spillway (causing 'uncontrolled flooding'), officials ordered evacuations in Butte, Sutter, and Yuba counties. As many as 200,000 residents were forced from low-lying homes and farms.
         Erosion on the dirt and rock hillside below the emergency spillway (see third photo) caused officials to change tactics and increase flow on the main spillway. After rain runoff subsided and lake content fell below the lip of the emergency spillway, officials examined the two spillways and deemed both safe for the time being. The mandatory evacuation order was lifted at Noon on Tuesday February 14. The crater in the main spillway and erosion below the emergency spillway are being filled with large rocks as a temporary solution.
         The earthen-fill Oroville Dam across the Feather River was completed in 1968 and is the tallest dam in the U.S.A.; it produces electricity and doles out water for agriculture; the main dam was not in danger during this episode. Local groups applied for upgrading the emergency spillway to concrete in 2005, but the $100M project was denied (Bush administration).
         What's next? Heavy rains are expected Wednesday February 15.

    June 2016 oil train derailment in Columbia River Gorge

    KGW-TV helicopter shot of smoke rising from the Union Pacific Railroad train derailment near Mosier, Oregon in June 2016           next-day aerial photograph of the Union Pacific Railroad train derailment near Mosier, Oregon in June 2016, provided by the Washington State Department of Ecology

         Shortly after 12-noon on Friday June Third, a Union Pacific Railroad train carrying crude oil derailed near the small town of Mosier, Oregon along the Columbia River Gorge. Sixteen railcars were off the tracks, and four were on fire. Much of the town was evacuated, twenty-three miles of the interstate were shut down, and alternate routes were soon choked with traffic.
         Little crude oil travelled through the gorge until 2012, when trains started transporting the commodity from the booming Bakken formation in North Dakota (made available by the new fracking processes) to a terminal near the coast. Since then, as much as sixty million gallons per week has moved down the rails on both sides of the Columbia River, sometimes on railroad trains more than a mile long.
         The interstate remained closed until late Friday night, and the flames weren’t fully extinguished until two o’clock in the morning. The Union Pacific Railroad agreed to halt its 'unit trains' carrying only crude oil, but did not extend the suspension to other freight trains. On Sunday evening, trains once again started rolling through town.
         On Monday afternoon, the town of Mosier swarmed with some two hundred workers from Union Pacific and the various state and federal agencies at work on the cleanup. Cleanup issues included a small spill of oil into the river, the removal of ten thousand gallons of oil from the town’s wastewater-treatment system, and the four burned railcars and 12 unburned rail cars.

    May 2016 Wildfires in Alberta, Canada

    smoke rising from the wildfires in Alberta, Canada in May 2016

           Wildfires erupted near Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada on Sunday May First and within days included a dozen fires surrounding the city. Officials ordered evacuation of the city of 88,000; some 17,000 residents quickly fled, most went south, some went north, many are still making plans or awaiting evacuation by air transport. By Friday, the flames were said to have burned 210,000 acres (also described as 850 km² or 328 square miles); officials reported that 1,600 homes and other buildings were destroyed within Fort McMurray, but there have so far been no deaths or injuries. Alberta declared a state of emergency that included fire restrictions over the entire province.
           UPDATE: The Alberta fires were reversed by winds, and are now heading for oil camps north of Fort McMurray; the fires have already burned 1,350 square miles of forest land.
    W.T.O.P News Radio in Washington, DC
    Posted by Dennis Foley on 1 May 2016 at 9:30 am

    CSX train derails in Northeast D.C., possible hazardous leak

         WASHINGTON, DC (WTOP) — A CSX freight train derailed near the Rhode Island Avenue Metro station Sunday morning leaving several cars overturned and a hazardous leak.
         Upwards of 10 cars derailed from a train bound for Hamlet, North Carolina, from Cumberland, Maryland, about 6:40 a.m., and emergency responders were working to contain a leak throughout the morning.
         “CSX operations and hazardous materials personnel are working with first responders on the derailment this morning in Washington D.C.,” CSX said in a statement released about 8:45 a.m. “The safety of the community, first responders, and CSX’s employees is our highest priority.”
         The company said one derailed car is leaking sodium hydroxide, used primarily “to produce various household products including paper, soap and detergents.”
         Rhode Island Avenue was still closed in both directions from 4th to 12th streets in Northeast as of 9:15 a.m.
         The Red Line’s Rhode Island Station is also closed. Metro said it would establish bus shuttle service between the NoMa and Brookland stations.

    railroad cars from a C.S.X. train that derailed in Northeast Washington, DC on 1 May 2016 - looking south toward the Capitol Building          railroad cars from a C.S.X. train that derailed in Northeast Washington, DC on 1 May 2016 - looking north

         CSX released the following statement at 8:45 a.m.:
                    At 6:40 a.m. on May 1, a C.S.X. train traveling from Cumberland, Md. to Hamlet, N.C. derailed approximately
               10 cars near 9thStreet and Rhode Island Ave. near the Rhode Island Ave. Metro station. The CSX train had three
               locomotives and 175 total cars, including 94 loaded cars carrying mixed freight, and 81 empties. One derailed
               car is leaking sodium hydroxide, which is used to produce various household products including paper, soap,
               and detergents. CSX is working with first responders to contain the released product.
                    [C.S.X. is] grateful for the swift response from Washington D.C. first responders and other agencies. C.S.X. is
               working closely with them on this incident.
                    No injuries have been reported. [C.S.X.] will provide updates when available.

    Animas River Spill of August 2015
    AP news photo of kayakers afloat on the yellow 'plume' moving down the Animas River in Colorado (taken by Jerry McBride of the Durango Herald newspaper)

           The Animas River Spill began on August 5th, when E.P.A workers that were cleaning up an abandoned mine near Silverton, Colorado accidentally released a million gallons of dirty water into Cement Creek, which quickly flowed into the Animas River. The yellow-colored spill is not especially toxic, although it does contain excessive levels of lead, arsenic, cadmium, aluminum, copper, and calcium.
           The official estimated size of the spillage was increased over the August 8-9 weekend to three million gallons. La Plata County and the City of Silverton in Colorado declared states of emergency; San Juan County in New Mexico and the Navajo Nation (NM, AZ, UT) declared states of emergency; Gov. Martinez declared a state of emergency in northwestern New Mexico – due to the destruction of plant and animal habitat and closures of polluted wells and agricultural irrigation ditches; these closures will remain in effect until further notice.
           By August 10, the yellow mine tailings spill 'plume' from Colorado had traveled 120 or so miles down the Animas River Valley to the San Juan River and past Farmington, New Mexico; the San Juan flows about 200 miles farther to meet the Colorado River at Lake Powell in Utah. The Navajo Nation filed suit against the E.P.A. for the possibly longterm contamination of their drinking water wells and agricultural land.

    see also August 10 article about the spill on the New Mexico Political Report website

    Chattanooga Times Free Press
    Friday 3 July 2015

    Officials lift evacuation after Tennessee train derailment
           by Steve Megargee & Johnny Clark of The Associated Press (AP writers Adrian Sainz in Memphis, TN and Rebecca Yonker in Louisville, KY contributed to this report)

           MARYVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Thousands of eastern Tennessee residents were returning home Friday after they were evacuated when a CSX train car carrying hazardous material derailed and caught fire.
           An evacuation order has been lifted for about 5,000 people who live within a mile-and-a-half radius of the crash site, Maryville City Manager Greg McClain said during a Friday news conference. Most of those evacuated received urgent knocks at their doors between midnight and 6 a.m. Thursday by emergency workers who told them they should leave immediately.
           The concern stemmed from the contents of the car that derailed: liquid acrylonitrile, a hazardous material used in multiple industrial processes including making plastics. It’s flammable and it’s dangerous if inhaled. The EPA says some effects of breathing acrylonitrile include headaches, dizziness, irritability and rapid heartbeat.
           Officials said tests to monitor air quality have shown no danger to residents.
           “It is safe to go home”, McClain said.
           Eighty-seven people were treated at Blount Memorial Hospital in Maryville, and 36 were admitted, hospital spokesman Josh West said. None had life-threatening injuries, but they were experiencing respiratory issues, skin irritation and nausea, West said.
           One person was discharged early Friday, and the number of patients being released from the hospital was expected to increase throughout the day, West said.
           Ten first responders were treated at the hospital after breathing fumes.
           CSX has offered to reimburse people for expenses stemming from the sudden evacuation. Some evacuated residents were pleasantly surprised by hotel vouchers and an abundance of food and free ice cream.
           CSX opened an outreach center for displaced residents. On Friday, most people at the shelter facility were getting food and water and filling out reimbursement forms.
           Elizabeth Whitehead, 32, said she stayed with friends because she didn’t find out about the hotel vouchers in time.
           “It’s exhausting,” Whitehead said Friday. “We haven’t had showers … It kind of makes you feel a little displaced.”
           Smoke had stopped rising from the site by 6 p.m. Thursday, Blount County Mayor Ed Mitchell said. Firefighters spent the day hosing down neighboring rail cars to keep them cool while also trying to move them away from the flames. A byproduct of burning acrylonitrile is cyanide, and there were concerns that some would be contained in the fumes, Mitchell said.
           Officials asked residents near the derailment site not to drink well water until they are told they can; officials said there was no indication yet whether well water was affected by the accident. CSX was providing bottled water to residents at a local middle school.
           Kevin Eichinger, an on-scene coordinator with the E.P.A., said air, water and soil samples were tested. McClain said air samples have been “very, very favorable,” and Eichinger said the hazardous product did not appear to make it into a nearby creek.
           The [CSX] train was traveling from Cincinnati to Waycross, Georgia. It had 57 cars and two locomotives, and 27 cars carried hazardous chemicals: nine with acrylonitrile, 16 with propane and two with asphalt, said Craig Camuso, CSX regional vice president for state government affairs. He said the cause of the derailment was not yet known.
           CSX said Friday that all but two cars involved in the derailment had been removed from the crash scene; one remaining car was the one that derailed, and the other car contained the hazardous chemical but was not breached in the crash.
           The Federal Railroad Administration said it had investigators and hazmat inspectors at the scene and would investigate the cause once it was safe to do so.
           The National Transportation Safety Board is not investigating the accident, but will monitor it and could send an investigator later, NTSB spokesman Terry Williams said in an email.
           In general, the transportation of hazardous materials in commerce is regulated by federal law, which requires that hazmat shippers be registered, the material be properly classified, the handlers have preliminary hazmat training, and that the material be labeled and held in proper containers, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration spokesman Gordon 'Joe' Delcambre Jr. said in an email.
           He said [that] more than 1 million daily shipments of hazardous materials are moved across the nation by all modes of transportation.

    Smoke rising from a CSX train that derailed near Marysville in Blount County, East Tennessee on 2 July 2015             Close view of the CSX train that derailed near Marysville in Blount County, East Tennessee on 2 July 2015

    FOLLOW-UP Saturday July 4th: The evacuation order was lifted for about 5,000 people living within 1½ miles of the derailment site, as 'tests to monitor air quality have shown no danger to residents'. Eighty-seven people were treated at Blount Memorial Hospital in Maryville, and 36 people experiencing non-life-threatening respiratory issues, skin irritation, and nausea were admitted.

    FOLLOW-UP Monday July 6th: Officials were finding dead fish in Culton Creek, so they warned citizens to avoid the waterway and to have any nearby well water tested before drinking it.

    The Times-Picayune newspaper of New Orleans
    Thursday 16 April 2015
    by The Associated Press

    Collapsed Gulf oil platform has been leaking since 2004, investigation finds

            OVER THE GULF OF MEXICO mdash; A blanket of fog lifts, exposing a band of rainbow sheen that stretches for miles off the coast of Louisiana. From the vantage point of an airplane, it's easy to see gas bubbles in the slick that mark the spot where an oil platform toppled during a 2004 hurricane, triggering what might be the longest-running commercial oil spill ever to pollute the Gulf of Mexico.
           Yet more than a decade after crude started leaking at the site formerly operated by Taylor Energy Company, few people even know of its existence. The company has downplayed the leak's extent and environmental impact, likening it to scores of minor spills and natural seeps the Gulf routinely absorbs.
           An Associated Press investigation has revealed evidence that the spill is far worse than what Taylor – or the government – have publicly reported during their secretive, and costly, effort to halt the leak. Presented with AP's findings, that the sheen recently averaged about 91 gallons of oil per day across eight square miles, the Coast Guard provided a new leak estimate that is about 20 times greater than one recently touted by the company.
           Outside experts say the spill could be even worse – possibly one of the largest ever in the Gulf.
           Taylor's oil was befouling the Gulf for years in obscurity before BP's massive spill in mile-deep water outraged the nation in 2010. Even industry experts haven't heard of Taylor's slow-motion spill, which has been leaking like a steady trickle from a faucet, compared to the fire hose that was BP's gusher.
           Taylor, a company renowned in Louisiana for the philanthropy of its deceased founder, has kept documents secret that would shed light on what it has done to stop the leak and eliminate the persistent sheen.
           The Coast Guard said in 2008 [that] the leak posed a 'significant threat' to the environment, though there is no evidence [that] oil from the site has reached shore. Ian MacDonald, a Florida State University biological oceanography professor and expert witness in a lawsuit against Taylor, said the sheen "presents a substantial threat to the environment" and is capable of harming birds, fish and other marine life.

           Using satellite images and pollution reports, the watchdog group SkyTruth {based in West Virginia} estimates between 300,000 and 1.4 million gallons of oil has spilled from the site since 2004, with an annual average daily leak rate between 37 and 900 gallons.
           If SkyTruth's high-end estimate of 1.4 million gallons is accurate, Taylor's spill would be about 1 percent the size of BP's, which a judge ruled amounted to 134 million gallons. That would still make the Taylor spill the 8th largest in the Gulf since 1970, according to a list compiled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
           "The Taylor leak is just a great example of what I call a dirty little secret in plain sight," said SkyTruth President John Amos.
           Taylor has spent tens of millions of dollars to contain and stop its leak, but it says nothing can be done to completely halt the chronic slicks.
           The New Orleans-based company presented federal regulators last year with a proposed "final resolution" at the site, but the details remain under wraps. For years, the government has allowed the company to shield other spill-related information from public scrutiny – all in the name of protecting trade secrets.
           Industry experts and environmental advocates are baffled by Taylor's inability to stop the leak and [by] its demands for confidentiality.
           "It's not normal to have a spill like this," said Ken Arnold, an industry consultant and former engineering manager for Shell Oil Company. "The whole thing surprises me. Normally, we fix things much more quickly than this."
           Five years ago, it took 87 days for BP to cap its blown-out Gulf well and halt the worst offshore oil spill in the nation's history. The disaster, which killed 11 rig workers, exposed weaknesses in the industry's safety culture and gaps in its spill response capabilities.
           Taylor's leak provided earlier evidence of how difficult it can be for the industry to prevent or stop a spill in an unforgiving environment. But the company has balked at sharing information that could help other offshore operators prepare for a similar incident, saying it's a valuable asset.
           Whether it can profit from any industry innovations is debatable. The company sold all its offshore leases and oil and gas interests in 2008, four years after founder Patrick Taylor died.
           Down to just one full-time employee, Taylor Energy exists only to continue fighting a spill that has no end in sight.

           Hurricane Ivan whipped into the Gulf of Mexico in 2004, churning up waves that triggered an underwater mudslide and toppled Taylor's platform. The rig stood roughly 10 miles off Louisiana's coast in approximately 475 feet of water, and buried its cluster of 28 wells under mounds of sediment. Taylor tried to remove the unstable sediment covering the damaged wells, but determined it was too dangerous for divers.
           Without access to the buried wells, traditional 'plug and abandon' efforts wouldn't work.
           In 2005, hurricanes Katrina and Rita disrupted the company's response efforts for several months. In 2007, slick sightings became more frequent near the wreckage. In 2008, the Coast Guard, concerned about the environmental threat of the leak, ordered additional work, including daily monitoring flights over the site.
           Just as BP had to improvise a method for capping its well in mile-deep water, Taylor says it formulated an "unprecedented plan" for containing the leak and sealing its buried wells.
           Only the broad outlines of the company's efforts are publicly known. A contractor designed a device to capture and dispose of oil and gas flowing from the seabed where its wells are buried.
           Another contractor drilled new wells to intercept and plug nine wells deemed capable of leaking oil.
           A year ago, federal officials convened a workshop on the leak. Months later, the company presented regulators its proposal for a final resolution at the site. That plan remains confidential, but Taylor Energy President William Pecue has said experts and government officials agree that the "best course of action . . . is to not take any affirmative action" due to the possible risks of additional drilling.
           Taylor had to share confidential records with the Waterkeeper Alliance, a New York City-based environmental group that sued the company in 2012 over its secrecy. But the company has aggressively worked to keep them from the public, stamping thousands of pages of documents as confidential and heavily redacting its president's deposition.
           A report related to the March 2014 workshop is under seal, with the company arguing in a court filing that releasing it would undermine the government's decision-making process. And a court order prohibits the Waterkeeper Alliance from disseminating any of the confidential records.
           During his deposition for the lawsuit, Pecue said the company developed innovations of "huge value" to another company in a similar situation.
           "Much of what we spent was because there was no pre-existing way to address this type of event in the history of our industry," he said.
           Long before Taylor's leak, the industry learned of the risks of drilling in the Gulf's mudslide-prone areas. In 1969, Hurricane Camille caused a mudslide that destroyed a platform and damaged another.
           Taylor's platform had been installed in 1984 by Sohio Petroleum, which started drilling wells before the company was acquired by BP. Taylor purchased the platform from BP in 1994 and drilled additional wells.
           Pecue, the company's last remaining full-time employee, said Taylor didn't do anything to assess the risk of mudslides at its platform besides verifying that the previous leaseholder's permits and designs met regulatory requirements.
           Soon after Taylor's platform toppled, a company contractor hired Louisiana State University professor Harry Roberts to perform a geological analysis of the site. Roberts said it had appeared to have been "reasonably stable" before Ivan struck.
           "But it turned out not to be," he added. "It is a learning curve. Maybe this is a point on the learning curve that other companies can learn from."

           Even people whose job it is to know about such leaks didn't know about this one. Plaquemines Parish coastal restoration director P.J. Hahn only found out about it in December 2012 when he spotted one of Taylor's slicks during a flight to BP's Deepwater Horizon site. Hahn was stunned when a Coast Guard official informed him oil had been leaking there for years.
           "That's right off of our coast. It's really close," said Hahn, who started in the job in 2007 and left the parish government last year. "I would have thought somebody would have shared it with us."
           From his home office in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, Sky Truth's Amos was tracking BP's oil with satellites when he too was shocked to discover Taylor's slicks.
           He began tracking the Taylor spill, eventually estimating its size at between 300,000 and 1.4 million gallons.
           The government, based on company-generated pollution reports, has given much smaller leak estimates for Taylor, from an average of 22 gallons per day in 2008 down to an average of 12 gallons per day over roughly the next five years. In a recent court filing, Taylor said experts concluded in March 2014 that the sheens contained an average volume of less than 4 gallons per day.
           But AP's review of more than 2,300 pollution reports since 2008 found they didn't match official accounts of a diminishing leak. In fact, the reports show a dramatic spike in sheen sizes and oil volumes since Sept. 1, 2014. That came just after federal regulators held a workshop to improve the accuracy of Taylor's slick estimates and started sending government observers on the contractor's daily flights over the site.
           From April 2008 through August 2014, the average sheen size reported to the Coast Guard was 2 square miles with an average volume of 11 gallons of oil, according to AP's analysis. Since then, the daily average sheen size ballooned to 8 square miles with an average volume of 91 gallons.
           When confronted by AP with evidence of the spike, the Coast Guard attributed it to an improved method for estimating the slicks from the air – with the clear implication that far more oil had been spilling for years than had been reported.
           After initially providing AP with an outdated, lower estimate, the Coast Guard then disclosed a new estimate – that approximately 16,000 gallons of oil have been spotted in slicks over the past seven months. That is roughly six times higher than its 2013 estimate, of about 4,500 gallons a year, and 20 times higher than the figure cited by Taylor in a Feb. 19 court filing.
           The company hasn't disclosed the much larger leak estimate in any publicly accessible court filings.
           In many reports over the years, there are glaring inconsistencies between the estimated size of the sheen and the corresponding volume calculation. One example: The longest sheen reported was 1,170 square miles in October 2009, but the report estimated the slick contained only 1.58 gallons of oil. Even if this slick covered just 1 percent of the stated area, a simple calculation shows it would be stretched to seven billionths of an inch thick – far too thin for the eye to see. Hundreds of other reports are similarly questionable.
           While Taylor insists it has acted "responsibly" throughout its spill response, the pattern of dubious pollution reports makes it difficult to assess the company's reports of progress in controlling the leak.
           The response to Taylor's leak also reinforces how the government, lacking the industry's expertise and resources, often must rely on companies and their contractors to assess and contain offshore spills. A presidential commission that investigated BP's spill identified that as a weakness.
           A Taylor spokesman declined to comment on AP's findings, but the company's lawyers have dismissed the Waterkeeper Alliance's lawsuit as a "sham" that shouldn't tarnish Patrick Taylor's legacy. Taylor, who died less than two months after Hurricane Ivan, is renowned in Louisiana for championing a program that has provided free state-paid college tuition to thousands of students. His family foundation, led by his widow, still donates millions of dollars annually to charity.
           The company says oil released from the site now comes from the sediment around the wells, not the wells themselves; the Coast Guard statement says the source of the slicks is unknown.
           Taking into account the reported change in estimation methods, AP's analysis doesn't show any statistically valid drop in sheen sizes or oil amounts over time. Sky Truth's Amos said the slick sizes should be steadily shrinking if the wells really are sealed and the recent sheens are residual oil oozing from the sediment.
           "The persistent size of the oil slicks we're seeing just don't jibe with those low leak-rate estimates we've seen from those officials," he said.

           Amos isn't the only skeptic. MacDonald, the Florida State University professor who is an expert witness for the Waterkeeper Alliance, leads a team of researchers tracking the sheen with satellite imagery, aerial photography, and samples from the water.
           MacDonald didn't respond to an interview request. But in a court filing he said he suspects [that] the company has used outdated mathematical formulas. His "conservative" estimate is that Taylor's reports lowball the amount of oil leaking by, on average, "a factor of 100 or more".
           Gaps and complex variables in the data make it impossible to pinpoint how much oil has actually spilled. Doug Helton, operations coordinator for NOAA's Emergency Response Division, said estimating the volume of slicks is hindered by the difficulty of determining the thickness of the oil.
           "It's hard to do that from satellites. It's hard to do that from flying by in an aircraft," Helton said.
           Oil slicks from both natural and man-made sources are common in the Gulf of Mexico. Every year, millions of gallons of crude seep naturally from cracks in the seabed. Massive spills like BP's are rare, but offshore accidents often pollute the Gulf with smaller quantities of oil.
           The Interior Department also says small leaks have been detected from abandoned wells that may have been unsuccessfully sealed by the companies that drilled them. A 2010 AP investigation revealed [that] federal regulators weren't routinely inspecting more than 27,000 abandoned wells in the Gulf.
           The persistent and predictable nature of the Taylor's slicks has given MacDonald and fellow Florida State researcher Oscar Garcia-Pineda a perfect laboratory for their work.
           "Since it's there, I guess we have to take advantage of it," said Garcia-Pineda, who is studying oil emulsions on satellite images.
           Garcia-Pineda has visited the site several times since August 2011, by boat and plane. Fumes sickened him and another researcher during a boat trip to the site, even though they were wearing respirators.
           Last month, Garcia-Pineda flew over the site to shoot photographs and video of the sheen shortly after a satellite captured images of the slick. Pointing his camera out the passenger window of a four-seat Cessna, Garcia-Pineda marveled at the slick stretching for several miles.
           "It's just amazing how much oil is there," he said.

    Associated Press 4/2015 video report [2:28] at YouTube

    March 2015 aerial photo of the longterm oil sheen from the Taylor oil well off the coast of Louisiana

           April 2015: Capitol Hill lawmakers from Louisiana have intervened on behalf of Taylor Energy Company, which has failed to stop a decade-old oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico. The company lobbied for a refund of money reserved for spill containment work, according to letters obtained by The Associated Press through public records requests.
           Since December 2014, at least four members of Louisiana's congressional delegation have urged the Obama administration to take up a settlement proposal by Taylor Energy Company, the letters show. The company is down to one full-time employee and is no longer active in the offshore drilling industry, but its deceased CEO was a prominent philanthropist and generous political donor, whose family foundation is quite active in maintaining that reputation.

    Bloomberg News
    Saturday 7 March 2015
    by Thomas Black, Lynn Doan & Devin Banerjee

    Derailed B.N.S.F. Train Still Burning as Second Crash Catches Fire
           A Canadian National Railway Co. train carrying crude oil derailed and caught fire in northern Ontario, while a BNSF Railway Co. train carrying Bakken oil for Mercuria Energy Group Ltd. continued to burn in rural Illinois two days after it jumped the tracks.
           Canadian National said on its website that the train derailed around 2:46 a.m. Saturday near Gogama, about 373 miles (600 kilometers) north of Toronto, with no injuries reported. Meanwhile, five of the BNSF train’s 105 cars remained on fire after Thursday’s derailment.

    AP photo of the fiery March 2015 B.N.S.F. train derailment near Galena, Illinois

           Several accidents, fires and explosions related to Bakken oil carried in rail cars over the past two years have spurred calls for tougher regulations. North Dakota required all operators to condition the crude to a lower vapor pressure beginning in April. A fiery oil-by-rail crash in Quebec killed 47 people in 2013, and last month a CSX Corp. train carrying Bakken crude derailed, sending up a fireball in West Virginia.

           Saturday’s accident marks the second derailment of a Canadian National oil train in the area in three weeks. A train with 100 cars, all carrying crude from the oil-producing region of Alberta to eastern Canada, derailed Feb. 14 about 30 miles north of Gogama. Twenty-nine cars were involved and seven caught fire, a spokesman said at the time.
           “An initial pool fire occurred that we believe impacted five rail cars and that fire continues to burn,” BNSF, a unit of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., said Friday in a statement about the Illinois crash. “Local, state and BNSF Railway emergency personnel are on the scene working to contain the incident.”

    Philadelphia Refinery
           Twenty-one of the train’s 105 cars, which include two sand cars as buffers, jumped the tracks Thursday afternoon near Galena, Illinois, about 160 miles west of Chicago. The U.S. Department of Transportation said 14 cars were in a pileup and half of those were punctured. Emergency responders evacuated a 1-mile radius, which contained six homes. No injuries have been reported.
           Mercuria, a Cyprus-based commodity trader, owns the crude and was working with the railway to investigate the accident, Matt J. Lauer, a Mercuria spokesman, said by telephone from Geneva. The oil was loaded at Bakken Oil Express LLC’s terminal in Eland, North Dakota, Joe Shotwell, operations director at the complex, said by phone on Friday.
           Mercuria was shipping the oil to Philadelphia Energy Solutions LLC’s refinery in Philadelphia, a person familiar with the situation said, while asking not to be identified because the information isn’t public. The company will work to fulfill the plant’s order with alternative supplies, the person said.

    Keystone Proposal
           Philadelphia Energy Solutions spokeswoman Cherice Corley didn’t immediately respond to telephone and e-mailed requests for comment left after business hours. The company is a joint venture of Carlyle Group LP and Sunoco Inc., which was acquired by Energy Transfer Partners LP in October 2012.
           Crude trains, which travel through crowded communities such as Chicago suburbs and New York state neighborhoods, have increased 40-fold since 2009 to 493,000 last year. Much of the crude originates in the Bakken because of insufficient pipelines to move the oil to refineries on the coasts.
           Canadian oil will continue to be shipped by rail cars if pipelines, such as the Keystone XL line, aren’t built, the Canadian government has said. Some U.S. Republicans have cited the recent fiery derailments as an argument in favor of approving the divisive $8 billion Keystone proposal. The U.S. Senate on Wednesday failed to override President Barack Obama’s veto of a bill forcing approval of the U.S.-Canada oil link, a setback for Republicans who’ve made building it a legislative priority.

    Safer Cars
           The BNSF tank cars involved in Thursday’s incident were the CPC-1232 model, the railroad said in an e-mail. The industry began making the CPC-1232 tank car at the end of 2011 to increase safety over more numerous, so-called legacy cars.
           The Transportation Department is set to issue new regulations for a safer tank car and modifications that will be required for legacy cars. The current cars may be on the tracks for years because of the time it takes to upgrade or replace them. The department also is considering an electronic braking system that would stop each car separately and help keep them from piling up. Railroads oppose the new braking system because of the cost.

    The Washington Post
    Tuesday 17 February 2015
    by reporter Joby Warrick

    Trains are carrying – and spilling – a record amount of oil
           When 14 tanker cars derailed and exploded Monday near tiny Mount Carbon, West Virginia, neighbors likened the fireball to a scene from the apocalypse. It was "like something Biblical, or wrath-of-God type stuff", one resident said.
           In fact, the oil spill and fire on the banks of the Kanawha River was the latest occurrence of a type of accident that U.S. officials say is becoming distressingly common. Federal agencies are documenting a dramatic rise in the number of rail mishaps involving oil tankers in the last three years, as North American producers scramble to find ways to transport surging oil output to markets.
           The fiery explosion of oil-laden C.S.X. tanker cars along a snowy stretch of south-central West Virginia came just two days after a similar incident in eastern Ontario, and follows a year that shattered all previous records for rail accidents involving shipments of petroleum products.
           More than 141 'unintentional releases' were reported from railroad tankers in 2014, an all-time high and a nearly six-fold increase over the average of 25 spills per year during the period from 1975 to 2012, according to records of the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. The year 2013 had fewer accidents but a much larger volume of spilled crude: 1.4 million gallons, an amount that exceeded the total for all spills since record-keeping began in 1975.
           The increase adds yet another dimension to the controversy over the construction of oil pipelines such as the Keystone XL. Oil industry advocates contend that pipelines are safer than rail for moving flammable petroleum, while opponents say pipelines tend to experience much larger spills. The latest spill also highlights well-documented shortcomings in the local preparedness for accidents involving hazardous rail cargo, safety experts say.
           "Back-to-back fiery derailments involving crude oil trains should be an unmistakable wake-up call to our political leaders", said Mollie Matteson, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity, an Arizona-based environmental group.
           The toll from the latest disaster is far from clear. West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin declared a state of emergency in two West Virginia counties as firefighters and hazmat crews worked for a second day to control the fire and contain an oil spill that contaminated a small creek and threatened to spread to the Kanawha River, a source of drinking water for cities and towns downstream. Nearly 2,500 people were evacuated when portions of the 109-car train derailed and then caught fire in a rural area southeast of Charleston.
           Only one injury was reported, but a nearby house was destroyed as one tanker after another exploded, creating columns of smoke and flame that could be seen for miles. A C.S.X. spokesman had no immediate explanation for the accident but confirmed that leaking oil had already reached one of the Kanawha [River]’s tributaries.
           "Fires around some of the cars will be allowed to burn out," the company said in a statement.
           Transportation experts have long complained about inadequate oversight and gaps in local preparedness for such accidents. Earlier this month, the Obama administration began a review of proposed new rules for oil-hauling trains, including provisions that would mandate updated tanker designs for freight trains hauling flammable cargo. But on Tuesday, C.S.X. officials disclosed that the tankers that caught fire in West Virginia bore the latest design features, raising doubts over whether the new rules would have helped.
           Part of the problem, energy experts say, is that transportation has not yet caught up with the sheer volume of oil being pumped by U.S. and Canadian companies in the past three years. In 2012, trains carried 40 times more oil than they did in 2008, and the volume doubled again in the following year, to about 400,000 tanker-car loads, according to figures posted by the Association of American Railroads. In production areas where pipelines are unavailable or at capacity, rail has become the transit choice by default, Charles Esser, an analyst with the International Energy Association, wrote in a recent blog.
           "North American rail shipments of oil are by no means unprecedented, but until the recent surge in production, they were largely limited to stopgap, temporary use, with pipeline construction favored," Esser wrote. While overall only about 10 percent of U.S. crude moves by tanker car, nearly 70 percent of the production from North Dakota’s surging Bakken fields reaches refineries by rail, he said.
           "Not surprisingly, accidents have increased, as well," Esser said. The petroleum that spilled in West Virginia on Monday originated in North Dakota and was headed for an oil terminal in Yorktown, Virginia.
           As accidents mount, so do chances for major disasters that could pollute communities and the environment, Matteson said. She cited the July 2013 derailment in Quebec that killed 47 people and forced the evacuation of 2,000 people.
           "People’s lives are at stake, clean drinking water is at stake, and the well-being of towns and wildlife along thousands of miles of rail line are directly in harm’s way of this unchecked, reckless increase in oil transport by rail," she said.

    burning railroad oil tank cars at Lynchburg, Virginia 30 April 2014 (note man on roof, lower left)        burning railroad oil tank cars leaking into a stream that feeds the Kanawha River in West Virginia 17 February 2015

    Associated Press / Tuesday 24 February 2015 / Ansted, WV
    by reporter John Raby

    Man runs from home as train derails nearby, engulfs property
           [FOLLOWUP}: Morris Bounds Sr. said he still requires treatments to help with his breathing and can taste something funny inside his mouth. Investigators have not determined what caused the crash. The train was carrying 3 million gallons of North Dakota crude. Oil leaked into a Kanawha River tributary, forcing nearby water treatment plants to temporarily shut down. The fire took four days to burn out and work continues to remove the overturned tanks.

    full text of story

    unidentified oil spill in Colorado creek, circa 2014 (photo by A.Z. Adams)
    unidentified oil spill in Colorado creek, circa 2014 (photo by A.Z. Adams)

    Largest Landslide in North America History
           On 10 April 2013, a gigantic landslide occured at Kennecott Utah Copper's Bingham Canyon Mine, about 18 miles southwest of Salt Lake City, Utah. Operator Rio Tinto had been monitoring recent tremors, and no employees were present during the event in which 65-70 million tons of dirt and rock slid down the east face of the 3,900 feet- (1,200 meters-) deep open pit mine. A second and much smaller slide took place on 11 September 2013; 100 workers cleaning up the original slide were evacuated when monitors detected movement; operation of the mine was halted overnight only.
           The mine has been owned by Rio Tinto of Australia since 1989; recent annual extraction yields have been 300,000 tons of copper, 13.7 tons of gold, 137 tons of silver, and 10,000 tons of molybdenum.

    official websiteWikipedia

    aerial photograph of the April 2013 landslide at Kennecott Utah Copper's open pit mine at Bingham Canyon, SW of Salt Lake City

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