Kinder Morgan lockdown interview and transcript

Early in the morning on Thursday, September 4th, 2014, eight people locked down to the gates of a crude-by-rail facility owned by Kinder Morgan in Richmond and prevented trucks from coming or going for three hours. Later that afternoon, two of the organizers (one of whom was me) were interviewed on Andrés Soto’s half-hour show on KPFA, in which we talked about the action, the dangers of crude-by-rail, and the context of the larger climate movement. The transcript is below.

But first, a great overview video:

Blockade the Bomb Trains! Lockdown at Kinder Morgan 4 Sept 2014 from Peter Menchini on Vimeo.

El Show de Andrés Soto on KPFA 3:30pm, Thursday, September 4th, 2014

Here’s the full audio – about half an hour.

Transcript of El Show de Andrés Soto on KPFA Thursday, September 4th, 2014

[Music and intro up to 00:38.]
Andrés: This is El Show de Andrés Soto, formerly of the Morning Mix.

Crude-by-rail. The Bay Area’s been targeted for dangerous Bakken crude deliveries to refineries throughout the Bay Area. There was an important action yesterday in Everett, Washington, to halt crude-by-rail and one this morning in Richmond. There’s also a critical court hearing in San Francisco tomorrow to stop the Kinder Morgan crude-by-rail operation in Richmond. We will speak with the key organizers of the action in Richmond today and talk about all of the events and activities, today on El Show de Andrés Soto on KPFA 94.1 FM, sometimes the people’s radio station. All of this and some very cool music.

Continue reading “Kinder Morgan lockdown interview and transcript”

Letter to Kern County Board of Supervisors on crude-by-rail project and refinery re-opening

Apparently Kern County wants to increase crude-by-rail and re-open a refinery. That’s a horrible idea, since we need to start closing refineries and move to all clean energy, immediately. Here is my letter of comment, sent through an action page hosted by the Center for Biological Diversity.

Comment

Subject: Reject the Alon Bakerfield Project
You would do well to read California Attorney General Kamala Harris’s January 15th, 2014 letter to the City of Pittsburg, CA regarding a proposed crude-by-rail terminal there. Many of her concerns apply to this project, including:

  • the issue of cumulative emissions on an already highly-impacted community,
  • the increased and novel risks of transporting extreme crudes such as diluted tar sands bitumen and Bakken shale oil, and
  • the effects that new fossil fuel infrastructure may have on California’s ability to meet its own (legislated) greenhouse gas emissions goals.

The full letter is available at http://pittsburgdc.org/?p=655

To protect our climate and meet California’s greenhouse gas emission goals, we must not build any more fossil fuel infrastructure. Period.

Martin MacKerel

Update

The letter can be found at https://www.scribd.com/document/200688980/Letter-from-Kamala-Harris-CA-Attorney-General-to-Pittsburg-regarding-the-WesPac-EIR

Letter to the Editor Concerning WSPA’s Self-serving Op-Ed

The president of WSPA (the Western States Petroleum Association – a fossil fuel lobbying group), somehow got this nonsense published in the San Francisco Chronicle the other day.

The next day there was a great letter to the editor, which I reproduced here:

When elves can deliver oil

Reading the piece by the president of the Western States Petroleum Association (“America’s energy renaissance,” Open Forum, April 8) made me wish I lived in the alternate reality of PR spin that she was describing, where little railcar explosions that level towns only happen in the land of Sillytown and Whoopsyville and never anywhere near you.

All this wonderful black gold comes from magical fracked wells in the Midwest to make things better and better, and it gets delivered by whistling elves with rainbows across the sky overhead. Yes, this does seem a wonderful place to live.

Adam Knowles, San Francisco

I had to write in myself. I don’t know if it will get published, but here it is:

It’s hard to top Tuesday’s letter from Adam Knowles, but I would like to add one point concerning the self-serving op-ed from the president of the Western States Petroleum Association. One of the reasons so many of us are adamantly opposed to crude-by-rail is its ability to bring in Canadian tar sands – one of the dirtiest fossil fuels, with very high emissions that cause climate change.

Moving to safe, sane, clean energy is the path to true energy security and is the only course of action that can be called “responsible”.

 

Public comment on "Refining Emission Tracking Regulation" aka the fossil fuel industry is dying

The “Refining Emission Tracking Regulation” is a proposed rule for the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. Some groups are trying hard to make sure that it requires reporting of the types of crude oil the refineries take in. I agree with this goal, as you can see from the letter below.


 

February 21st, 2014

To: Stationary Source Committee
Bay Area Air Quality Management District
939 Ellis Street
San Francisco, CA 94109

Re: Comments on Petroleum Refining Emission Tracking Regulation, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, and the Regional Climate Action Strategy

As you are no doubt aware, in November the Board passed a Climate Action Resolution (Resolution No. 2013) committing to a goal of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.

Very few people have grappled with the enormity of this task. As luck would have it, just last night I was beginning to prepare for a presentation on the topic and I started working on a graph to illustrate the problem. I am not pleased with the aesthetics of the graph, but I am including it on the following page because it’s the best thing I have on hand at such short notice (I found out about this meeting and the submission deadline just a couple hours ago).

A picture is worth a thousand words, but a poor picture requires a few dozen words for clarification.

Although the graph is lightened only from 2014 onward, it is based on BAAQMD’s 2010 report, so the 2011 and 2014 numbers are projections. Nevertheless, you can see that BAAQMD was assuming a linear increase in all sources of greenhouse gases.

The thick black line goes from the 2014 point to Executive Order S-3-05’s 2020 goal (matching 1990 levels) and then to the 2050 goal. The most important point to take away from this graph is that today’s refinery emissions are by themselves almost as high as the 2050 goal for all sources.

It is clear that along with other sectors, the refineries must decrease their GHG emissions. Unlike other sectors, however, a large proportion of refineries’ emissions are inherent to the core function of the industry.

The Bay Area refinery industry will have to contract, not only to meet the lower regional emissions caps, but also because of reduced demand of fossil fuels due to other sectors reducing their GHG emissions.

It is important that BAAQMD keep a very close eye on refineries’ GHG emissions, and one of the most important determinants of their emissions is the type of crude oil (aka feedstock) that the refineries take in. BAAQMD must recognize that the Refinery Emission Tracking Regulation is a key tool to meet its own Climate Action Resolution and will be part of the Regional Climate Action Strategy currently being developed.

For this reason the Refinery Emission Tracking Regulation should be as thorough as possible, it should include reporting and monitoring of refinery feedstock as well as strong punishments for misreporting, and it should be enacted reasonably quickly.

Yours,
Martin MacKerel

Update (2018-09-06)

Four and a half years later, BAAQMD has failed to implement any such regulation.

 

Climate Change Support Circle

Hokey? So be it.

I have been an activist for over a decade, and have been working on climate change for just under a year now. And I have to say, climate change work is much more emotionally difficult that any other activism I’ve engaged in.

For a while now – perhaps back in May of last year – I’ve wanted to have a kind of emotional support group. Finally, after much thinking and some planning, I organized the first meeting of what I’m calling a “climate change support circle” this past Monday.

The most basic tenet of the support circle is confidentiality. In discussion before we started, we agreed that we would not even anonymize anything we heard – our circle is so small that even if I just wrote here about what someone said without giving too much detail, several someones outside the circle could probably make an educated guess about the speaker’s identity. So I will write only about the overall process, and not much about what we said.

The need

Why is this support circle necessary? Because when you work on climate change, you think about climate change. And you will know, and be constantly reminded, that we are fucked. In some ways it’s harder than dealing with the death of someone you love, or even your own mortality – we are looking at the possibility of horrible death for billions of people. And even the possibility of the extinction of the human species within a century or two. People tell me stories of going to the park and then breaking down in tears when they see small children playing, because they know that those children will suffer terribly, and that their lives will be much worse than their parents’ or grandparents’.

Continue reading “Climate Change Support Circle”

California Is Taking Tar Sands Seriously

No gunky tar sands for California, please.

Opponents of tar sands, take heart! One little speck in the rivers of the bureaucracy’s paperwork gives us great hope in the fight against this extreme fossil fuel.

Tar sands, for those of you who are new, are what they sound like – tar mixed with sand. It’s heavy, gunky, disgusting stuff that takes an incredible amount of energy to dig up, process, transport, and refine. In fact, it’s so inefficient that one must “spend” one barrel of oil to get only three back. Compare this to conventional oil, in which the energy of one barrel of oil is used to obtain 70 barrels of oil.

This has grave implications for emissions of heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide. Because so much energy is used to obtain and refine tar sands, gasoline derived from tar sands has a lot more emissions behind it than gasoline from regular oil. So if we want to reduce our emissions, the first thing we can do is avoid using these extreme, unconventional fossil fuels.

Regional and State Agency Responses

We’ve seen that the San Francisco Bay Area’s regional air quality regulator, BAAQMD, recently passed a historic resolution to commit to doing its part to meet California’s goal of dramatic emissions reductions by 2050. This implies that Bay Area refineries will have to reduce their use of low-quality crudes, and over time reduce their operations and eventually shut down.

Now a new player is in the mix, from an unexpected quarter – the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, which is tasked with keeping an eye on California’s long-term plans and goals.

Over in Pittsburg, CA, a company named WesPac is trying to quietly build a major oil terminal with a huge rail component. They’re so quiet, in fact, that the vast majority of Pittsburg residents still have no idea that this project has been proposed. One of the concerns of the Pittsburg Defense Council, a grassroots group trying to stop the WesPac project, is that it would bring in particularly dangerous types of crude oil.

WesPac has downplayed the possibility of tar sands, but the OPR is not fooled. In a short letter just over one page long, they asked Pittsburg three simple questions, which basically boil down to: Will this proposed oil terminal receive tar sands-derived oil? This basic question was not covered in the draft environmental impact report, and, unconscionably, the Pittsburg Planning Department does not plan to directly address this issue in the final EIR.

Larger Implications

This is big news in a lot of ways:

  • It means California is taking tar sands seriously at the state level.
  • It means California is considering the impact of tar sands when evaluating new fossil fuel infrastructure.
  • It means that the local Pittsburg Planning Dept is acting cavalierly to ignore the key question of what types of crude oil would come in to the proposed WesPac oil terminal.
  • It should put fossil fuel companies and city and county planning departments on notice that regulatory agencies will look very carefully at what specific types of crude oil they deal with.
  • It drives another nail in the coffin of the tar sands industry.

So, tar sands opponents, celebrate this victory! More and more regulators are waking up to the terrible consequences of tar sands.

P.S.

If you live in or near Pittsburg, CA, email the Pittsburg Defense Council and help them out! If you live in the greater Bay Area, help the 350 Bay Area BayCAP campaign ensure that BAAQMD follows through on its strict new resolution.