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EcoUnionist News #53

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, June 23, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Story:

Bread and Roses:

An Injury to One is an Injury to All:

Carbon Bubble:

Just Transition:

Other News:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on; Twitter #IWWEUC; Hashtags: #greenunionism #greensyndicalism

Jerry Brown's head oil regulator resigns after RICO suit filed

By Dan Bacher - Censored News, June 6, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Mark Nechodom, the controversial director of the California Department of Conservation, the agency that oversees the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR), resigned on Thursday, June 4.

DOGGR is the agency charged with regulating the state's oil and gas industry. Governor Jerry Brown in 2011 appointed Nechodom, who is considered very friendly to the oil industry, to the post in order to expedite permits for oil drilling in Kern County and elsewhere.

The agency has faced increasing scrutiny from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) after permitting oil companies conducting steam injection and fracking operations to drill thousands of oilfield wastewater disposal wells into protected aquifers.

The Committee to Protect Agricultural Water, a citizen organization comprised of Central Valley farmers and "individuals concerned about California's drinking water," filed a civil Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) complaint in Federal Court on June 3, the day before Nechodom resigned.

The RICO Complaint claims that Governor Jerry Brown's office ordered the DOGGR to approve permits to inject contaminated water in violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act

Santa Barbara disaster inevitable with Big Oil's capture of the regulatory apparatus

By Dan Bacher - Daily Kos, May 25, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The same region devastated by the Santa Barbara Oil Spill of 1969 is now the scene of a massive clean up of crude oil by the state and federal governments and volunteers. The international and national media have spread throughout the world the startling images of the oil soaked beaches, birds, fish and ecosystem in a deluge of TV, radio, newspaper and internet reports.

The oil spill resulted from the rupture of an oil pipeline owned by Plains Pipeline, a subsidiary of Plains All-American Pipeline, near Refugio State Beach in Santa Barbara County on Tuesday, May 19. A 24-inch wide, 11-mile long section carrying oil from offshore platforms and an Exxon Mobil processing plant onshore leaked as much as 105,000 gallons of crude oil. An estimated 21,000 gallons made into the ocean, devastating nine miles of coastal waters and beaches.    

The oil spill that began off Refugio State Beach was inevitable, when you consider the capture of the regulatory apparatus by the oil industry in California. Until people challenge the power of Big Oil in California and the industry's control over the state and federal regulatory agencies, we will see more of the Refugio-type of oil spill disasters in the future.

During the privately funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative process from 2004 to 2012, state officials and corporate "environmental" NGOs made sure that Big Oil and other corporate polluters weren't impacted by the creation of alleged "marine protected areas" along the California coast. The MLPA Initiative, a controversial "public-private partnership" between the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation (RLFF), was supposed to create a network of "marine protected areas" along the California coast.

In an article published widely in June 2010, I warned that the "marine protected areas" created under the MLPA Initiative don't protect the ocean from oil spills and pollution. (

"These marine protected areas, as currently designed, don't protect against oil spills," said Sara Randall, then the program director of the Institute for Fishery Resources and Commercial Fishermen of America. "What's the point of developing marine protected areas if they don't protect the resources?"

MLPA Initiative advocates claimed that other state and federal laws and administrative actions "protect" the ocean from oil spills and new offshore oil drilling, so there was no need for specific bans or restrictions on oil industry activities in and near "marine protected areas."  

In violation of the provisions of the landmark Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) of 1999, the "marine protected areas" failed to protect the ocean from oil spills, oil drilling, pollution, military testing, corporate aquaculture, military testing and all human impacts on the ocean other than fishing and gathering.  

Of course, MLPA Initiative advocates neglected to address why Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the President of the Western States Petroleum Association in Sacramento, was allowed to CHAIR the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast and to sit on the task forces for the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast, as well as on a NOAA federal marine protected areas panel. (

They dismissed any questioning of why a Big Oil lobbyist was allowed to oversee "marine protection" in California as "wild conspiracy theories."

To make matters even worse, the WSPA President's husband, James Boyd, served on the California Energy Commission from 2002 to 2012. From 2007 to 2012, he served as the Commission's Vice Chair, the second most powerful position on the Commission! (  

However, as we can see from the current oil spill disaster off the coast of Santa Barbara, the state and federal regulatory agencies and the MLPA Initiative's so-called "marine protected areas" weren't able to prevent a big oil spill like the one now taking place from occurring - and the fishermen, Tribal members and grassroots environmentalists who criticized oil industry lobbyist oversight of the MLPA Initiative process were absolutely right about their fears that the new "Yosemites of the Sea" wouldn't protect the ocean.

EcoUnionist News #45

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, April 1, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Stories:

Bread and Roses:

USW Refinery Strike:

Carbon Bubble:

Just Transition:


Health and Safety:

Other News:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on; Twitter #IWWEUC

Quintero zona de catástrofe

By René Cumplido - El Ciudadano, October 28, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

La gran mancha de petróleo derramado aún permanece en el fondo de la bahía de Quintero según el informe dado a conocer por las autoridades este fin de semana. Según el biólogo marino Hugo Poblete, del Movimiento de Pescadores Artesanales de Quintero, el nivel de PH en las aguas arroja una acidez de 2,7, lo que provoca la muerte de toda la flora y fauna del lugar.

Esto coincide con la última declaración de la Enap, propietaria del crudo, reconociendo que el derrame, hasta el momento, supera los 22 mil litros, una cifra diez veces mayor a la dada a conocer durante la semana pasada.

Entre el puerto de Ventanas y  la empresa Oxiquim, en una superficie de 1.800 metros de largo por cinco metros de ancho,  la playa quedó cubierta por petróleo crudo, el que lentamente, pese a los esfuerzos de los equipos de limpieza, comenzó a desplazarse a través de las corrientes por toda la bahía.

La mancha de petróleo aún es visible en el mar en una extensión de 25 kilómetros entre la península de Los Molles hasta cerca de Chachagua, sumando más de 20 playas y pequeños requeríos contaminados con el crudo. Al acercarse, por ejemplo, a playa Las Conchitas, a varios kilómetros del accidente, y aunque la empresa ya dio por concluidas las labores de limpieza, aún se observan restos de hidrocarburos en las algas de los requeríos.

Work Is Killing Workers: Americans Are Working So Hard It’s Actually Killing People; The jobless recovery means massive speedups for many workers you depend on

By Esther Kaplan - The Nation, November 2, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Jessica Wheeler works the night shift as an oncology nurse at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital in northeastern Pennsylvania—but her patients are usually wide awake. “When they have a new cancer diagnosis or they’re going to have a biopsy in the morning, they don’t sleep,” says the 25-year-old Wheeler (which is not her real name). “They’re scared.” Other patients are in their final hours of life, surrounded by grieving family. What she wants is to be there to comfort them, to talk them through those difficult hours, to hold their hands and attend to their pain. But, mostly, she can’t.

According to hospital policy, night nurses on her floor should care for no more than six and a half patients, but they typically have ten. When things go bad with one or two, the floor quickly tips into chaos.

Wheeler recalls one night when she had a patient who couldn’t breathe and several others under her care. “I called the supervisor to ask for anybody—a nursing assistant, anybody! And I didn’t get it, and my patient ended up coding.” Another night, Wheeler had a post-op patient who required constant attention; the patient was confused and sick, and she soon escaped her restraints and pulled out her drains, spraying fecal matter all over the wall. Early the next morning, her heartbeat became irregular just as another patient was dying. “Those nights are scary,” Wheeler says. “I think I’ve seen everybody on our floor cry.”

Another young nurse describes a shift when she had only been on the job a few months and was saddled with ten patients, including one whose incision was leaking badly, requiring her to administer blood all night long. “I was drowning,” the nurse says. She called for help multiple times, but it never came. At the 7 am shift change, she confused two patients’ blood-sugar numbers and medicated the wrong one.

Wilkes-Barre was not always this out of control. For decades, it was a nonprofit community hospital serving the onetime coal town. It was bought in 2009 by what is now the nation’s largest for-profit healthcare chain, Tennessee-based Community Health Systems, which operates 207 hospitals in twenty-nine states. The Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP), the nurses’ union, counts fifty-one fewer nurses since the CHS acquisition, a reduction of more than 10 percent—and that’s on top of the elimination of dozens of nursing aides and secretaries. The nurses are not only juggling more patients, says Fran Prusinski, a critical-care nurse who’s been at the hospital for thirty years, but “they have to change the linens, empty the garbage and answer the phones.”

Some of the job’s intensity is due to broad national trends in healthcare. The rise of HMOs and cost-cutting in the 1990s mean patients who are stable and ambulatory—some nurses call them “walkie-talkies”—are now quickly released, so those left in the hospital tend to be sicker and harder to care for. “The patients we’re taking care of on a general medical floor now were the patients twenty years ago we took care of in an ICU [intensive-care unit] with a 2-to-1 patient-to-nurse ratio,” says Elaine Weale, an ER nurse who’s been at the hospital for thirty-three years. “Now that nurse may have five patients, six patients, seven patients.” And as technology has advanced, gravely ill patients who once would have died are now being kept alive, requiring constant care.

But the crush of work these nurses face also exemplifies a hidden side of the recent economic recovery: in industry after industry, speedups are turning work into a hazard, with increasing numbers of injuries and dangerous levels of stress. While 18.6 million people remain underemployed, millions of others are working more hours, and more intensely, than ever. This is especially true in certain industries, from oil refineries to retail to publishing, where federal data shows labor productivity has risen at double or more the national rate. A 2010 survey of people registered with found that 53 percent of respondents had taken on additional duties since the start of the recession because co-workers had been laid off—almost all of them without any additional compensation. A 2010 report from the Center for American Progress and the Hastings Center for WorkLife Law found that overwork was a particular problem among professionals: 14 percent of women and 38 percent of men were working more than fifty hours a week. But it has become common in industrial occupations as well. “When time and a half for overtime was established by federal law, that was really a job-creation measure, so it would cost less to hire a new worker,” says Mike Wright, the United Steelworkers’ director of health and safety. “But starting in the late 1970s, the cost of benefits exceeded that extra pay cost, and it became cheaper to work your existing workers harder.”

* * *

American workers do work longer hours than we did a generation ago, according to some analyses, and hundreds more per year than our counterparts in France or Germany—the equivalent of six to eight extra weeks a year. We top the Eurozone nations in productivity by 18 percentage points. “Every month the BLS [Bureau of Labor Statistics] releases its worker-productivity numbers, which measure output per labor hour worked,” says Celeste Monforton, a former Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) staffer. Montforton, now at the George Washington University School of Public Health, points out that the numbers “go up every month. And that’s because businesses are not hiring new workers; they’re just expecting the old workers to work more, and spitting them out after they get injured.” Some of these gains come from the adoption of new technologies, but others just come from pushing workers harder.

A 2013 survey of its own union reps by the United Steelworkers, which represents such blue-collar industries as oil and steel, found that production pressures, the increased pace of work and increased workloads topped workplace health concerns—outstripping more obvious risks such as poorly maintained equipment. When the reps were asked to give an example of a health or safety problem that had gotten worse over the past year, understaffing led the list. The jobless recovery, in other words, is sustained in part by aggressively overworking those with jobs.

Take the meatpacking industry. By age 39, Juan Martinez, who worked at a Cargill beef processing plant near Omaha, had hands so disfigured from making repetitive cuts that he could no longer work; he is now surviving on disability. He still experiences pain so intense it feels like nails are being hammered into his fingers. His crew had to slice up 4,600 twenty- to thirty-pound pieces per shift. In the four years he was at the plant, from 2003 to 2006, the number of people at his station dropped from eight to six or seven, while the parts kept coming. Since they couldn’t keep up with the line when someone took a bathroom break, supervisors responded by simply denying break requests. “There are people who would pee in their pants,” he told me, “because they didn’t give them permission to go.”

Another meatpacking worker, whom I’ll call Porfirio, worked on the kill line at XL Four Star Beef (now JBS) in Omaha for twenty-seven years. When he started, he says, they killed 1,000 cattle in a ten-hour shift; now they kill 1,100 in eight and a half hours. At night, when he goes to bed, his hands hurt so much that he has trouble falling asleep; when he wakes up in the morning, he can’t move them at all. Everyone talked about popping enormous doses of Tylenol; some talked about pressure so intense it left them depressed. “The Speed Kills You,” a 2009 report from the nonprofit organization Nebraska Appleseed, was based on a survey of 455 meatpacking workers; it cataloged a range of injuries, from cuts, falls and fractures to musculoskeletal and repetitive-strain injuries, attributed mainly to “uninterrupted line speed.” Three-quarters of respondents said line speed had increased in their plant over the past year.

Line speeds in meatpacking and poultry are federally regulated for food safety only, not worker safety. Last year, the USDA proposed to raise the cap on poultry line speeds from 140 to an almost unimaginable 175 birds a minute, even though hand and wrist injuries were already rampant in the industry. A government study of one poultry plant in March of this year found that 41 percent of the workers already exceed safe limits for hand activity, and 42 percent showed evidence of carpal tunnel syndrome.

The Lac-Mégantic disaster: was it just the brakes? - The Big Problem with Letting Small Railroads Haul Oil

By Eric de Place and Rich Feldman - Sightline Daily, October 8, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The disaster in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec—where 47 people were killed by a Bakken oil train derailment—is commonly understood to have resulted from a train slipping its brakes and then rolling downhill into town where it crashed disastrously. It was a tragedy, but it should not be considered just a mechanical accident.

In truth, it was a self-reinforcing chain of events and conditions caused by underinvestment, lack of maintenance, and staff cutbacks. And it’s a lesson the Northwest should heed because it illuminates the risks of allowing small regional and short line railroads to pick up unit trains of crude oil from bigger railroads like BNSF and transport them short distances to refineries and terminals. The Northwest is home to at least two small railroads with big oil-by-rail aspirations. One already hauls oil trains several times a week through Portland and small towns in northwest Oregon while the other, plagued by a string of recent derailments, aims to service no fewer than three terminals at the Port of Grays Harbor.

The story from Quebec—of what happened to the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic (MMA) railroad—is the story of a disaster waiting to happen. MMA was a regional railroad assembled in 2002 by a holding company from the assets of bankrupt Iron Road Railways, which owned four small railroads operating in Maine, Vermont, and Quebec. MMA had struggled financially from the start just as its major customers in the forestry industry also struggled. It went through a series of cutbacks to staff and maintenance.

Increased traffic from oil-by-rail was going to be MMA’s ticket to financial stability. Instead, following the Lac-Mégantic wreck, MMA was forced into bankruptcy, leaving billions of dollars of cleanup and damage costs uncovered by its minimal insurance.

What happened was this. MMA picked up the ill-fated oil train of Bakken crude from the Montreal yard of a big player in North American rail, Canadian Pacific (CP), and was transporting it to a refinery in New Brunswick. After passing through Lac-Mégantic, the engineer parked the train on a hill above town for the night. He is now accused of setting an insufficient number of hand brakes that were acting as a back-up to the train’s air-brake system and of not performing a brake test effectively. The hand brake issue only became a problem because locomotive 5017, which was powering the air-brake system for the entire oil train, was shut down.*

And the reason this locomotive was turned off? Because when it had caught on fire earlier in the night the responding firefighters had to turn it off.

And the reason this locomotive caught on fire? Chronic underinvestment by the railroad. According to court documents, MMA’s own employees point to underinvestment by the railway that led to the company using second-hand locomotives, operating rundown equipment, tolerating damaged tracks, and performing minimal maintenance. One worker testified that “he saw little maintenance done on locomotives and that locomotive 5017 was in particularly poor condition.”

Four Years After the BP Disaster, Vietnamese Oyster Fishermen and Shrimpers Struggle to Survive

By Cherri Foytlin - The Life Support Project, October 6, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Undeterred by the blazing sun and high humidity of a mid-August afternoon in Biloxi, Mississippi, Tuat Nguyen and Bien Do moved nimbly around their shrimp boat, making last-minute preparations to leave for Lake Borgne, where the Louisiana shrimp season would open in a few days. Watching them work, moving with ease from one end of the boat to the other, climbing up and down, it was hard to believe both are in their seventies and each has been making a living on the water for more than six decades.

While Bien made final preparations to depart– they’d already had mechanical problems earlier that day – Tuat, who speaks only a little English, invited community leader and interpreter Thao Vu and myself to sit down for a few minutes at the small table in the boat’s tidy galley.

Tuat says her father taught her how to shrimp when she was only 8 or 9 years old. The invention of GPS and modern technology were still decades away, so at night the moon and the stars were their guide. She remembers following the sun during the day, following it as it moved from east to west. Everything was done by hand. Someone would blow a horn to guide them into the dock after dark.

She says her husband, Bien, can’t remember a time he didn’t work on a boat. He’s a hardworking oyster fisherman and a shrimper, livelihoods that go back generations.

After leaving Vietnam, they settled in Biloxi, drawn by the warm Gulf waters where they could make a living dredging for oysters and shrimping. The Gulf’s abundance and their own hard work allowed them to be productive, independent and part of a thriving community.

But that was before BP.

Derailed: Railroad Delays First Responders on Riverside Oil Spill

By Chris Halsne - Fox 31 TV, September 22, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

DENVER — FOX31 Denver has confirmed a May 9 crude oil train car derailment near LaSalle, Colorado polluted area groundwater with toxic levels of benzene.

Environmental Protection Agency records from July show benzene measurements as high as 144 parts per billion near the crash site. Five parts per billion is considered the safe limit.

Federal accident records also show six Union Pacific tankers ripped apart from the train and flipped into a ditch due to a “track misalignment caused by a soft roadbed.” One of the tankers cracked and spilled approximately7,000 gallons of Niobrara crude, according to the EPA.

FOX31 Denver’s investigative team also confirmed the oil car accident location, only about 75 yards from the South Platte River, is in the same spot as another Union Pacific derailment four years ago.

Reports show four rail cars full of wheat/grain derailed in October 2010. The cause of that accident was very similar: “roadbed settled or soft” and “other rail and joint bar defects.”

“They did have a derailment at the exact same point. I mean within feet!” witness Glenn Werning, a nearby farmer and local water supervisor, told FOX31 Denver investigative reporter Chris Halsne.

Werning wonders if Union Pacific was negligent in repairing the area after the first crash telling Halsne, “It would have been devastating if it had gotten into the water and flowed down. It would have been, whew! The oil spill would have been a mess to clean up because it would have been on both sides of the river for miles.”

Bakken Bomb Trains: Hell on Rails

By x356039 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, September 1, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Over the past two years the volume of bakken crude oil, extracted from the tar sand fields of Alberta, Wyoming, Utah, North and South Dakota, has skyrocketed by an astonishing 900%. Thanks in part to the work of many brave communities in the line of fire and the logistical difficulties of building a continent-spanning pipeline the companies extracting this toxic material have sought out other methods for moving the volume of material they desire for export overseas to China and points beyond. The solution they have settled on is to move the bakken crude by oil trains, some stretching over a mile, owned by high-powered corporate captains of industry like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates from the point of extraction to the points of refinement and distribution.

They argue the materials being ripped from the Earth's crust are vitally necessary for energy independence and economic growth. What these self-interested short-sighted tycoons overlook is the truly massive cost in far more real terms than a mere bottom line such decisions are inflicting on people, communities, and the biosphere. In spite of the measured, massaged tones they use to assuage the fully-justified fears of the public there is little doubt the extraction, refinement, and movement of bakken crude by rail is a clear and present danger to all life in the path of these deadly horsemen.

The first and surest sign of the threat these bomb trains pose is the town of Lac-Megantic, Quebec. A small community located on Lake Megantic it is the sort of place, prior to the summer of 2013, one would never have expected to become associated with the worst rail disaster in Canadian history and one of the worst ever in North America. One fateful evening a bakken crude train was pulled off to a siding by its lone crew member so they could take a break from an extremely long shift and catch up on much needed sleep. During the night the brakes securing the train came loose and the train rolled off the track, tipping over and rupturing the tanks containing the highly volatile bakken crude. Thanks to the incredibly low flash point of bakken crude, due to the nature of the refining process, the entire train load went up in a flash obliterating a huge swath of Lac-Megantic. In the rushing inferno that followed 47 people's lives were mercilessly snuffed out, from young children to the elderly, without warning or any possibility of escape.

In the immediate wake firefighters from across Quebec and neighboring Maine were called in to bring the fires under control, do whatever they could for the survivors, and bury the dead. So great was the ferocity of the blaze following the disaster that nothing less than such a massive mobilization of emergency personnel would stand a chance. All were left stunned, shocked, and wondering how such a catastrophe could be visited on their homes with no warning of any kind. In the words of Tim Pellerin, fire chief for Rangeley, Maine, “It was like a World War II bombing zone. There was just block after block of everything incinerated. All that was left were foundations and chimneys. Everything burned. The buildings, the asphalt, the grass, the trees, the telephone poles. Just about everything was incinerated.” In the investigations following Lac-Megantic many facts came to light as to how so much harm could be caused, proving without question the devastation was no fluke but a very real, predictable possibility.