Monday, March 30, 2015

Sunday Globe Special: U.S. Railways Are Feinberg

"Rail agency’s new head draws kudos, despite string of crashes" by Ashley Halsey III, Washington Post  March 22, 2015

WASHINGTON — After a string of deadly train crashes, a pair of angry US senators stood in New York City’s Grand Central Terminal four months ago to denounce the Federal Railroad Administration as a ‘‘lawless agency, a rogue agency.’’

They said it was too cozy with the railroads it regulates and more interested in ‘‘cutting corners’’ for them than protecting the public.

In the past two months, photos of rail cars strewn akimbo beside tracks have rivaled mountains of snow in Boston for play in newspapers and on television.

But the reaction by Congress to the railroad oversight agency’s performance has been extremely positive recently.

Accolades were directed at its acting head, Sarah Feinberg, even though her two-month tenure in the job has coincided with an astonishing number of high-profile train wrecks:

This Congre$$ really is controlled by Zionist Jews.

■ Feb. 3: Six people were killed when a commuter train hit an SUV at a grade crossing in Valhalla, N.Y.

■ Feb. 4: Fourteen tank cars carrying ethanol jumped the tracks north of Dubuque, Iowa, and three burst into flames.

■  Feb. 16: Twenty-eight tank cars carrying crude oil derailed and caught fire in West Virginia.

■  Feb. 24: A commuter train derailed in Oxnard, Calif., after hitting a tractor-trailer at a grade crossing.


28 hurt when California train crashes into truck on tracks
Lawyer: Trucker tried to drive off tracks, ran for his life
California’s plastic bag ban suspended by ballot referendum

They are made out of oil.

■  March 5: Twenty-one tank cars derailed and leaked crude oil within yards of a tributary of the Mississippi River in Illinois.

■  March 9: The engine and baggage car of an Amtrak train derailed after hitting a tractor-trailer at a grade crossing in North Carolina.


40 passengers injured in N.C. truck-train collision
No one warned N.C. train of stuck truck, rail officials say
Truck driver in Amtrak crash in N.C. has history of violations 

Yeah, blame him.

They forgot the tanker truck in New Jersey, too.

At first glance, Feinberg seems an unlikely choice to replace Joseph Szabo, the career railroad man who resigned after five years in the job. She is 37, a former White House operative, onetime spokeswoman for Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, and, most recently, chief of staff to the US Department of Transportation secretary.

Nothing on her résumé says ‘‘railroad.’’

‘‘Sometimes it’s good to have an outside person,’’ said Senator Charles Schumer, Democrat of New York, who got a call from Feinberg immediately after the Feb. 3 crash in Valhalla. ‘‘She’s smart, she’s a quick study, she knows how to bring people together. I think she’s the right person for the job.’’

‘‘Whether she’s had a lifetime experience riding the rails or working on the rails, she knows how to get to the crux of things and move things forward,’’ said Senator Joe Manchin III, a West Virginia Democrat who arrived at the Feb. 16 crash shortly before Feinberg did. ‘‘I was very impressed.’’

Schumer calls Feinberg ‘‘hard-nosed’’ and says she isn’t worried if she ruffles some in an industry grown accustomed to a more languid pace of change.

After the Valhalla crash, Feinberg pulled together a team to come up with a better way to address an issue that kills hundreds of people at grade crossings each year.

‘‘We’re at a point where about 95 percent of grade-crossing incidents are due to driver or pedestrian error,’’ Feinberg said. ‘‘While I don’t blame the victims, this is a good example of a problem that needs some new thinking.’’

A month later, she called on local law enforcement to show a greater presence at grade crossings and ticket drivers who try to beat the warning lights. Next, the railroad agency says it plans ‘‘to employ smarter uses of technology, increase public awareness of grade crossing safety, and improve signage.’’

‘‘When it comes to the rail industry, that is lightning fast, and it’s really impressive,’’ said a congressional aide who focuses on transportation.

Grade-crossing deaths pale in comparison to the potential catastrophe that Feinberg says keeps her awake at night. ‘‘We’re transporting a highly flammable and volatile crude from the middle of the country, more than 1,000 miles on average, to refineries,’’ she said.

All of the recent crude-oil train derailments happened miles from the nearest town. But little more than a year ago, a CSX train with six crude-oil tank cars derailed on a river bridge in the middle of Philadelphia. And an oil-fueled fireball after a derailment in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, in July 2013 left 47 people dead.

Related: Canada Cleans Up Train Crash 

They covered it up car by car.

Also see: 

"Canada’s labor minister said Monday that the Canadian Pacific Railway strike had ended, with both sides agreeing to resume discussions. Canada’s Conservative government had threatened to introduce legislation to force an end to the strike by 3,300 Teamsters, saying it threatened the economy. Labor Minister Kellie Leitch welcomed the willingness by both sides to resume talks, which had seemed impossible just hours earlier. The strike began just after midnight Sunday. Teamsters president Douglas Finnson called the government’s intervention premature. CP Rail supported the move. In 2012, the government passed legislation to force an end to a nine-day railway strike. It was estimated then that a prolonged strike would cost the economy $540 million a week and halt shipments of grain, fertilizer, coal, cars, and other goods."

Glad they got that cleaned up, too.

The number of tank-car trains has expanded exponentially since the start of a production boom centered in North Dakota. Seven years ago, 9,500 tank cars of Bakken crude traveled by railroad. Last year, the number was 493,126. In 2013, an additional 290,000 cars transported ethanol.

Good thing that boom won't be lasting long, 'eh?

Mindful of the potential for disaster, the White House tasked the Office of Management and Budget and the Transportation Department with figuring out how to safely transport the oil. At DOT, that fell to Feinberg, who had just signed on as chief of staff to Secretary Anthony Foxx.

‘‘We found her to be very hands-on, firm but fair, and ready to work with all stakeholders in making fact-based decisions,’’ said Ed Greenberg of the Association of American Railroads. ‘‘She is someone who has quickly recognized the challenges in moving crude oil by rail. And the freight rail industry is ready to work with her” in her new role at the Federal Railroad Administration, he said.


Next day:

"There have been a rash of train derailments across the country over the last few months. Fourteen tank cars carrying ethanol jumped the tracks north of Dubuque, Iowa, and three of them burst into flames on Feb. 4. Twelve days later, 28 tank cars carrying crude oil derailed and caught fire in rural West Virginia. Twenty-one tank cars derailed and leaked crude oil within yards of a tributary of the Mississippi River in rural Illinois on March 5."

And now one in Texas!

"Oil-bearing train derails in West Virginia, setting off explosion" by John Raby, Associated Press  February 17, 2015

MOUNT CARBON, W.Va. — A train carrying more than 100 tankers of crude oil derailed in southern West Virginia on Monday, sending at least one into the Kanawha River, igniting at least 14 tankers, and sparking a house fire, officials said.

One person was treated for an inhalation problem, but no other injuries were reported. Nearby residents were told to leave their homes as a state emergency response and environmental officials headed to the scene about 30 miles southeast of Charleston.

The state was under a winter storm warning and getting heavy snowfall at times, with as much as 5 inches in some places. It was not clear if the weather had anything to do with the derailment, which occurred about 1:20 p.m. along a flat stretch of rail.

Federal railway and hazardous materials officials were called to the scene. The company said it was investigating what caused the train to come off the tracks.

Public Safety spokesman Lawrence Messina said responders at the scene reported one tanker and possibly another went into the river. Messina said local emergency responders were having trouble getting to the house that caught fire.

The rail company said it was still sorting out many specifics of the accident.


The office of Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, who has declared a state of emergency, said the tanker cars were loaded with Bakken crude from North Dakota and headed to Yorktown, Va.

The Bakken oil-producing region encompasses parts of North Dakota, Montana, and Canada.

The US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration said in a report last year that crude produced in the Bakken region is more flammable than other types of crude and more dangerous to transport by rail. About three-quarters of the oil produced in North Dakota is shipped by rail.

The US Transportation Department has been considering tougher safety regulations for rail shipments of crude oil.

Responding to a series of fiery train crashes, including one this spring in Lynchburg, Va., the government proposed rules in July that would phase out tens of thousands of older tank cars that carry increasing quantities of crude oil and other highly flammable liquids. It is not clear how old the tankers were on the derailed train in West Virginia.

In December, Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, urged regulators in the Office of Management and Budget to swiftly complete their review of the proposal to phase out the older tank cars. OMB reviews federal regulations before they are enacted.

Schumer, who has long advocated for stricter regulations on such cars, made the renewed push after the agency said the process could take several months to finalize.

Earlier last year, the Department of Transportation released a series of proposed regulations, including reductions in train speed, tougher tank car design standards, and enhanced communications with local first responders.

The type of tank cars that would be replaced were involved in an explosion that killed 47 people in Lac-Megantic, Quebec in 2013. The train’s 72 tank cars were carrying 2 million gallons of Bakken crude oil.

The train derailed in the center of the town and released 1.6 million gallons of flammable crude, much of which burned. Forty-two people were confirmed dead, and five others were never recovered and presumed dead. More than 30 buildings in Lac-Megantic were destroyed, about half of the downtown.

The regulations that would eventually require the phasing out of these older tank cars, known as DOT-111 cars, are accompanied by proposals to alert local emergency management personnel about when the cars will be moving through their areas of responsibility as well as how to respond to a spill or explosion.


Citizens are being told to "conserve water" 

Related: Ex-Workers Plead Guilty in West Virginia Chemical Spill Case

Remember that, before it was washed down the ma$$ media memory hole?

"Train carrying 3 million gallons of crude still burning" by Joby Warrick, Washington Post  February 18, 2015

When 14 tanker cars derailed and exploded Monday near tiny Mount Carbon, W.Va., 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 US officials say is becoming distressingly common.

Yes, better let them build the pipelines.

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 CSX tanker cars along a snowy stretch of south-central West Virginia came 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.


The increase adds yet another dimension to the controversy about the construction of oil pipelines...

“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. Governor Earl Ray Tomblin declared a state of emergency in two West Virginia counties as firefighters and hazmat crews worked for a second day Tuesday 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.

Not again in West Virginia!

A CSX spokesman had no immediate explanation for the accident but confirmed that leaking oil had already reached one of Kanawha’s tributaries....


Also see: 

"A full-scale federal investigation of the West Virginia derailment has begun as work continues to remove the overturned tank cars from the site. A fire sparked by the Feb. 16 derailment in Mount Carbon prevented investigators from gaining full access to the crash scene until this weekend. Foul winter weather also has hampered the investigation. Monday’s accident was the latest in a spate of fiery derailments, and senior federal officials said it drives home the need for stronger tank cars, more effective braking systems, and other safety improvements. ‘‘This underscores why we need to move as quickly as possible getting these regulations in place,’’ said Tim Butters, acting administrator for the Transportation Department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration." 

Oh, I'm feeling so munch better now.

Tougher safety regulations needed for shipping oil by rail

That's why pipelines are needed, can't you see?

"With Keystone response, Obama enters new era; Likely veto could set trend for last half of his term" by Michael D. Shear and Coral Davenport, New York Times  February 23, 2015

WASHINGTON — President Obama this week is expected to formally reject a Republican attempt to force construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, a move that will likely open the veto era of his presidency, but some lawmakers say partisanship could in fact hold down Obama’s veto count by preventing Republican-sponsored legislation from reaching the president’s desk in the first place.


Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, said presidents must always be mindful of the fact that Congress can override a president’s veto with a two-thirds vote in both chambers. Getting a veto overridden is an indication of weakness that presidents try to avoid, which gives Obama’s Democratic allies in the Senate another incentive to block legislation before it gets to the president.

Still, members of both parties are bracing for a future in which Republicans muscle through legislation that the president will then reject.

They could well start by pushing through budget measures, some of which require only 51 votes in the Senate and cannot be blocked by Democrats, and then dare Obama to veto them. Their strategy is to have Obama reject the Keystone bill when they are in session, giving them the opportunity to rally and denounce the president on the floors of the Senate and House. 

I'm sick of the show.

Congressional aides said they expected Obama would get the bill on Monday, and White House officials said the president would veto it soon after.

Although environmentalists have spent years marching and protesting against the pipeline, and have long urged Obama to reject the permit application from TransCanada, the company hoping to build it, White House officials say the president will veto the bill because it shifts the authority to approve the pipeline from the White House to Congress — essentially reducing the president’s power.

A veto of the bill would not mean the end of the Keystone project, but rather that Obama will retain the authority to make a final decision on whether to approve it.

Kind of like a.... dictator?


RelatedReview links Keystone pipeline to gas emissions

"Obama vetoes Keystone XL pipeline bill" by Michael D. Shear and Coral Davenport, New York Times  February 25, 2015

WASHINGTON —With no fanfare and a 104-word letter to the Senate, President Obama, in exercising the unique power of the Oval Office for only the third time since his election in 2008, vetoed legislation to authorize construction of a 1,179-mile pipeline that would carry 800,000 barrels of heavy petroleum a day from the oil sands of Alberta to ports and refineries on the Gulf Coast.

Obama retains the right to make a final judgment on the pipeline on his own timeline. But he did little to calm the political debate over Keystone, which has become a symbol of the continuing struggle between environmentalists and conservatives.

The proposed Keystone pipeline has emerged as a broader symbol of the partisan political clash over energy, climate change and the economy.

Most energy policy experts say the project will have a minimal impact on jobs and climate. But Republicans insist that the pipeline will increase employment by linking the United States to an energy supply from a friendly neighbor. Environmentalists say it will contribute to ecological destruction and damaging climate change.

Obama has hinted that he thinks both sides have inflated their arguments, but he has not said what he will decide....

I say he will after the 2016 elections.


Also seeSenate fails to override pipeline veto

The vote was 62-37.

We need them up here:

"Baker stresses energy costs as key to competitiveness" by Jon Chesto, Globe Staff  February 19, 2015

Governor Charlie Baker will take a break this weekend from coping with the onslaught of snow to deal with another headache: the region’s high energy costs.

Baker will head to Washington for the winter gathering of the National Governors Association, where he will meet with other New England governors to brainstorm ideas for a regional approach to curbing fuel expenses. 

I heard it was a real hoot.


"Republican Governor Paul LePage (right) has joined a coalition of state leaders that wants the federal government to allow more offshore energy development. He joins the chief executives of Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia in the Outer Continental Shelf Governors Coalition. The group, formed in 2011, is led by North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory. It wants federal officials to expand opportunities in coastal waters for more oil, gas, and renewable energy exploration and production. LePage said that safe and responsible offshore energy development will create jobs while boosting the economy and the nation’s energy security."

Not the kind of idea the Globe was thinking?

The governor brought up the Washington trip, and his larger concerns about energy, on Thursday during a speech to the New England Council at the Boston Harbor Hotel. Baker sees energy prices as one of the biggest threats to Massachusetts’ economic competitiveness.

“We can’t go through this issue every winter where the price of electricity goes up 30 or 40 percent,” he told the crowd.

Tell it to the price-gouging, looting utilities.

“I believe there’s a huge partnership opportunity, working with the other New England states to get from here to there.”

One of the biggest contributors to the high power prices is the limited transmission capacity connecting the cheap natural gas in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale to the many natural gas-driven power plants in New England.

To address that problem, the governor wants to see the capacity of the existing pipeline system expanded. He said he was glad to see National Grid this week joining an effort led by Eversource Energy (formerly Northeast Utilities/NStar) to invest in expanding Spectra Energy’s pipeline infrastructure in the region.

Also see: Patrick's Pipeline

The utilities want to transfer the costs of the gas pipeline expansion to electricity customers.

Say again?

Presumably, the utilities will look to state regulators and other New England state officials — Baker among them — for help in pulling that off.

The energy issue was just one of several that Baker touched on in his speech, a similar address to the one he gave to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce two weeks ago. Once again, he talked about how he did his best to pick a bipartisan Cabinet and about how he is working on reforms to curb the state’s budget-busting health care costs.

Not surprisingly, the governor also talked about snow.

He regaled the crowd with a story about the power of the snow-melting machines that the state has either purchased or borrowed.

And he said the National Guard is playing a critical role in getting the Red Line opened back up to Braintree by digging 20 miles of snow by hand.

“Thank the National Guard for being out there every single day, when it’s minus 20, shoveling out the Red Line, from JFK to Braintree [stations],” Baker said.

The problems with the transportation system, just weeks into his term, have been a “learning experience for many of us,” he said.

He was asked about a referendum proposed by critics of a Boston 2024 Olympics — one that could put before the voters the question of whether the state should host the Summer Games.

“[If] folks want to pursue it, there’s a process in place, and by all means have at it,” Baker said. “It’s what it’s there for, and that’s a good thing.”


Also seeNational Grid joins bid to expand pipelines

And once we have been extorted this winter:

"Eversource aims to cut its price for natural gas" by Jack Newsham, Globe Correspondent  February 23, 2015

Eversource Energy, the utility that supplies natural gas to much of Central and Eastern Massachusetts, has proposed cutting customers’ gas bills an average of $20 a month for March and April.

The company, formerly known as NStar and Northeast Utilities, said Monday that it has sought Department of Public Utilities approval to adjust costs downward for its 300,000 gas customers, based on lower-than-expected costs.

Electricity rates would not change for the utility’s 1.3 million power customers in Massachusetts, however.

Michael Durand, a spokesman, said Eversource cannot change its electricity rates, which are locked in place for six months by state law. It frequently seeks adjustments to its natural gas rates, however, which the utility sets partly according to long-term contracts and partly by the volatile futures market, Durand said.

By one measure, natural gas futures prices have recently fallen to a five-month low.

Eversource raised electricity rates 29 percent this winter because of higher costs from generators. At the time, the company cited expected price surges for natural gas, which many power plants in New England burn to generate electricity.

That second part never happened! Gue$$ who received the windfall!

For the average customer who uses gas for home heating, Eversource said bills would drop from $171 per month to $151, nearly a 12 percent cut. The company said “fluctuations in wholesale market prices” had led it to seek permission to cut the rate it charged customers for gas from 74 to around 60 cents per therm. Households with gas hook-ups that use oil or other fuels to heat their homes would not benefit as much.

A spokeswoman for Attorney General Maura Healey, whose office contested the winter electricity rate increases proposed by National Grid and Eversource, welcomed Eversource’s announcement. “This is positive news for ratepayers, especially considering the winter that we are currently having. It is also a further reminder of the work we must all do to keep rates as low as possible for ratepayers in the future,” said Jillian Fennimore.

The move comes on the heels of cuts by National Grid, which serves Boston and Northeastern Massachusetts. Jake Navarro, a spokesman for the company, said it had cut rates by 5 percent in January and 6 percent in February, saving a typical household $20 a month over the rates it would have paid.

“We’re pleased to be passing along this price cut to our customers during what has so far been a very difficult winter for everyone,” Bill Akley, Eversource’s president of gas operations, said in a statement.

After everyone got their raises, of course.


Turns out they had plenty of gas:

"Pipeline opponents say LNG is underutilized; As battle intensifies over pipelines, some assert imports can sate growing natural gas appetite" by Jay Fitzgerald, Globe Correspondent  March 23, 2015

Opponents of proposed natural gas pipelines that would crisscross Massachusetts may have a new ally: a multinational importer of liquefied natural gas.

As Governor Charlie Baker tries to organize a summit of New England governors to address regional energy needs — including the hotly contested issue of building natural gas pipelines — Distrigas of Massachusetts LLC says its LNG facility in Everett is more than capable of meeting the rising demand for natural gas. Officials at Distrigas, owned by France’s GDF Suez, question the need for two multibillion-dollar pipeline projects proposed by other energy suppliers and vehemently opposed by neighbors and environmental groups.

“We already have the infrastructure in place,” Frank Katulak, chief executive of Distrigas, said of his company’s Everett Marine Terminal, where giant LNG ships from around the world dock and convert their cargo into natural gas for distribution across the region. “We absolutely are an alternative to new pipelines. There’s no need for major changes or new fees to pay for new pipelines.”

Distrigas’s Everett terminal, company officials said, is running at about 50 percent capacity, despite a 60 percent increase in LNG shipments this year.

But pipeline companies and utilities backing them contest Katulak’s assertion that LNG can fully alleviate supply shortages caused by pipeline constraints, which limit how much natural gas flows into New England from shale fields in Pennsylvania and other states. At best, other energy suppliers say, the LNG from the port is a “backup” source for the increasing number of residents who rely on gas to heat homes and power plants that use it to generate electricity.

Some energy suppliers also note security risks associated with LNG shipments into Boston Harbor, where a team of heavily armed security personnel are deployed in boats and along shorelines every time an LNG tanker steams into the harbor. In the past, law enforcement officials have been concerned about potential terrorist attacks.

I remember that being mentioned years ago, and nothing since (and it's coming from Yemen of all places!).

But Distrigas’s credibility as an additional source of energy grew this winter when increased LNG imports were credited with helping avert natural gas shortages during this winter’s extreme cold and record-breaking snow.

So we were basically played for fools and lied to, huh?

In recent years, similar conditions combined with limited pipeline capacity to create strong demand, short supplies, and soaring costs for natural gas in New England. Higher natural gas costs, in turn, drove wholesale electricity prices higher because most electricity here is generated with natural gas.

Heading into this winter, generators jacked up electricity prices by as much as 40 percent in anticipation of natural gas shortages, which were passed on to consumers by utilities. But those natural gas shortages and electricity price spikes did not happen this winter, partly due to increased LNG shipments.

What bills were they reading?

Greg Cunningham, director of the clean energy program at the Conservation Law Foundation, a Boston environmental group, said LNG imports can meet peak demand for natural gas. Cunningham questioned the need for most new pipelines, noting that the price of LNG has plunged by about 50 percent in recent months and should stay low for years because of the vast increase in global supplies of oil and natural gas.

“LNG is way underutilized,” Cunningham said. “The fact that there is an existing infrastructure already in place is a big plus.”

But backers of new pipelines disagree. Kinder Morgan Inc., a Houston company, has proposed a $4 billion pipeline that would stretch across Western Massachusetts and into southern New Hampshire, before dipping back into Massachusetts in Dracut.

The locals around here are trying to keep it out of the county, and it may have been rerouted through New Hampshire.

Spectra Energy Corp., another Texas company, has teamed with local utilities Eversource Energy (formerly Nstar and Northeast Utilities) and National Grid to expand the existing Algonquin gas pipeline system in the region. Known as Access Northeast, that project also includes expanding the capacity of the Maritimes & Northeast line, which carries liquefied natural gas from ships anchored off Eastern Canada. The project could cost up to $3 billion. (Customers would pay the costs of pipeline projects through higher rates.)

Where are all the profits going?

Officials at Kinder Morgan, Spectra, Eversource, and National Grid said new pipelines are needed to meet the region’s growing appetite for natural gas and keep down its electric prices, among the highest in the nation.

Are these guys incredible or what!

“It would be short-sighted to think the underlying problem that contributed to [recent] historically high prices has been fixed,” Eversource spokesman Michael Durand said. “Energy prices are still higher here than the rest of the country and New England customers will continue to be negatively impacted without a long-term solution.”

Baker, who took office in January, opposed the Kinder Morgan pipeline proposal during last year’s gubernatorial campaign. But he has signaled that he is open to Spectra’s plan as part of a strategy to diversify energy sources, including wind and solar.

Baker recently met with New England governors at the National Governor’s Association in Washington to discuss a number of issues, including energy, an administration spokesman said. Baker’s office is trying to schedule a meeting of New England governors to tackle energy issues.


Related: The Full Spectra of Pipelines

It's no relief so don't fall in love with it.

"The Northeast is burning a record-breaking amount of natural gas this week amid numbing cold and unending snowstorms. Bentek Energy, a Denver-based analysis company, said the demand for natural gas in 14 northeastern states hit 43.1 billion cubic feet on Monday, about 3 percent more than the peak demand recorded during last year’s brutally cold polar vortex. Luke Jackson, a Bentek analyst, said demand was especially high in New England. For example, he said, the main pipelines serving Boston were pumping natural gas at 97 and 98 percent capacity Friday morning. Bentek’s projections showed that total gas demand on Friday was on its way to top Monday’s record, mostly because of the huge demand from households and workplaces that use natural gas for heat."

Some are still not convinced:

"Northeast gas pipeline dismays some N.Y. residents" by Mary Esch, Associated Press  March 23, 2015

HARPERSFIELD, N.Y. — The 124-mile Constitution Pipeline will likely bring some relief from high natural gas prices to residents of New York City and New England, but it will also bring anguish to some landowners in the wooded hills and valleys in its path.

It will slash a mile-long gash through a pristine forest tended by the Kernan family for seven decades. It will spoil Andrew Havas’ plans to build a home and automotive shop. It will disrupt farming for dairyman Ken Stanton. It will dash hopes Bob Lidsky and Bev Travis had of building the hilltop home where they planned to retire with their five huge mountain dogs.

‘‘This pipeline destroys any hope of either building or selling the land for a profit,’’ said Lidsky, a retired designer who raises Leonberger dogs with his wife in the Catskills hamlet of Andes and also owns 42 acres in the pipeline’s path.

Of 651 landowners in New York and Pennsylvania affected by the $700 million project, 125 refused to sign right of way agreements. Condemnation proceedings undertaken by Constitution under the Natural Gas Act have largely resolved the disputes, either through settlements or access granted by a judge.

Only four property owners still have cases pending, all in New York. The courts will set compensation for landowners who did not reach agreements on their own. In Lidsky’s case, for example, the judge granted Constitution access and ordered the company to cover compensation of up to $11,600.

‘‘We’re looking at early summer to start construction,’’ with completion next year, said Chris Stockton, spokesman for Tulsa-based pipeline operator Williams Partners LP. Most regulatory hurdles have been cleared, though the project still needs air and water permits from the state and another permit from the Army Corps of Engineers.

Many communities along the pipeline’s path from Pennsylvania’s gas fields to a transmission hub 80 miles southwest of Albany support the project for the jobs, taxes, and access to natural gas it will bring. Williams Partners has also cultivated good will by doling out more than $1.6 million in grants to local nonprofits. Pipeline backers say it is the first to be approved out of a slew of proposals designed to bring cheaper domestic gas to Northeast markets that have become increasingly reliant on it for home heating.

But opposition has been fierce. ‘‘It’s the principle of the thing, that they’re just taking land that I’ve paid dearly for over the years,’’ said Ken Stanton, whose farm supports three generations in Schoharie.



"A jump in oil prices helped push stocks sharply higher for a second day, erasing many of the losses since the year began. US benchmark oil surged 7%; investors are hoping oil prices have found a floor after falling about 60% from a recent peak in June. Prices have risen 19% in four days as producers cancel exploration projects and cut the number of rigs drilling for oil. Stocks climbed from the start of the day after a rally in European markets on signs Greece’s new leaders won’t seek to write off the nation’s bailout loans. US investors were also encouraged by a surge in auto sales last month."

"Gasoline prices rose 4 cents in Massachusetts last week, the third straight week of increases after several months of declines. The average price of a gallon of regular gasoline rose to $2.25, according to AAA Northeast. That is up 17 cents over the past month, but $1.21 lower than a year ago. Gas prices are strongly influenced by oil prices, which have risen in recent weeks from their low of $44 a barrel in late January to $49 a barrel Monday morning. A strike at many US oil refineries has stretched into its fourth week, cutting supplies, while other refineries are getting ready for summer by switching production to a seasonal blend that is more expensive to make. Gas prices had been falling sharply because of strong domestic oil production and weak demand overseas." 

I think the problem is the railroad workers themselves:

"The United Steelworkers union, which represents employees at more than 200 US oil refineries, terminals, pipelines, and chemical plants, began a strike at nine sites Sunday, its biggest walkout since 1980, after failing to reach agreement on a labor contract that expired the same day. The union rejected five offers by Royal Dutch Shell on behalf of oil companies including Exxon Mobil and Chevron since negotiations began Jan. 21, amid the biggest collapse in oil prices since 2008. The 1980 work stoppage lasted three months. A full walkout today of USW workers would threaten to disrupt as much as 64 percent of US fuel production. “The problem is that oil companies are too greedy to make a positive change in the workplace,” USW international vice president Tom Conway said. “They continue to value production and profit over health and safety, workers, and the community.” Ray Fisher, a spokesman for Shell, said the company is “committed to resolving our differences . . . at the negotiating table.” The unions seeks “substantial” pay increases, stronger rules to prevent fatigue, and measures to keep union workers rather than contract employees on the job."

"The Port of Long Beach, which has been dealing with cargo delays since last year amid labor negotiations between terminal operators and longshoremen, may soon have another problem on its hands. United Steelworkers members who help run oil terminals at the port that supply Los Angeles-area refineries are threatening to join a national oil workers’ strike as they negotiate their own contract with Tesoro Logistics LP, according to a union official. The group will meet with members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union on Wednesday to discuss whether they would honor a walkout, the official said. The Longshore and Warehouse Union has walked out of nine refineries in the United States, which account for 13 percent of the country’s fuel capacity, since Feb. 1."

"Cargo companies have gone straight to West Coast dockworkers with what they call their ‘‘last, best, and final’’ offer in a contract dispute that has choked off billions of dollars in international trade. The move is likely to upset union leaders, who have been negotiating behind closed doors. In Tacoma, Wash., on Wednesday, foremen handed dockworkers a letter from the president of the association that represents companies that own, load, and unload ships, detailing a contract offer that employers made a week ago. The letter says it includes wage and pension increases and the maintenance of low-cost health benefits. Employers appear to be hoping that union members will conclude the offer is strong, and that dockworkers will pressure their negotiators to accept it. Negotiators for the union and the Pacific Maritime Association have been meeting with US Labor Secretary Thomas Perez."

Even the Globe is getting involved in negotiations:

"US economy can’t afford a West Coast port impasse" February 20, 2015

FOR MONTHS now, 29 ports up and down the West Coast have not been operating at full capacity. Ongoing labor negotiations that have already resulted in frequent work slowdowns took a turn for the worse last week as port operations ground to a halt over the holiday weekend. Yet the national economy depends too much on these key entry points to allow the discord behind these disruptions to  continue much longer. Both sides need to find creative ways to compromise. If they don’t, the Obama administration shouldn’t hesitate to leave all options on the table — including employing federal laws to force the ports to remain open.

The labor dispute stems from contract negotiations between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents 20,000 West Coast dockworkers, and the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents the ports’ managers. The previous contract expired last June, and both parties have reportedly agreed to much of what will be in the new contract. Ironically, the one sticking point appears to be new rules governing arbitration in labor disputes.

Neither side looks ready to give in — but that may be due to the mudslinging both parties have stooped to in recent months. Management has accused the union of using slowdown tactics to hold up business, such as withholding crane operators necessary to move containers off of ships. The union disagrees, saying that crane operators are being held back for safety reasons after several accidents. They also say management is using the specter of a shutdown to gain leverage in negotiations.

Unfortunately, due to the size of the ports involved, this ugliness — as far away as it seems — has ramifications even in Boston. The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach alone handle 40 percent of all incoming container cargo to the United States, adding up to $1 billion worth of goods that pass through these two ports every day. During the work stoppage last weekend, 32 container ships idled off Los Angeles’ waterfront. When the West Coast ports shut down, supply chains across the country suffer.

President Obama has dispatched his labor secretary, Tom Perez, to San Francisco to mediate, although it is unclear what Perez can accomplish that federal negotiators already on the ground can’t. That said, sending Perez shows both sides that the White House is invested in a positive outcome and will hopefully speed talks along. Obama also needs to make clear that he will do everything in his power to keep the ports open — including using the Taft-Hartley Act, which outlaws certain types of strikes, to forcibly open the ports in the event of another shutdown.

Taking this extreme step would inevitably anger Democrats’ union allies. But the cost of the dispute have already been too high: Workers in the Midwest suffer when carmaker Honda has to slow production at its US plants because parts can’t get through the ports fast enough, as was announced last week. The same goes for farmers, whose produce is rotting before it can be loaded onto ships: trade in American citrus fruits to Asia is already estimated to be down 25 percent.

Also at risk? The future of the dockworkers themselves. The longer negotiations go on, the more impatient shipping firms are getting at the delay. Hanjin, South Korea’s largest shipping company, announced Tuesday that it was pulling out of the Port of Portland after one of its ships sat waiting to be serviced for four days last weekend. Hanjin accounts for 78 percent of business at that port.

Neither party in this messy affair will ultimately end up without some egg on its face. But the hard decisions — over pay, health care, pensions, and more — have been made. Now is the time for the fighting to end, before even more economic productivity is lost.



"Negotiators have agreed to a tentative contract covering West Coast dockworkers, likely ending a protracted labor dispute that has snarled international trade at seaports handling about $1 trillion worth of cargo annually. The breakthrough came after nine months of negotiations that turned contentious in the fall, when dockworkers and their employers began blaming each other for problems getting imports to consumers and exports overseas. Dockworkers union spokesman Craig Merrilees confirmed the agreement Friday evening. It must be approved by the 13,000-member International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which works 29 ports from San Diego to Seattle."

"West Coast seaports were back at full operation Sunday, except in Oakland, which has seen another work disruption. It’s unclear what prompted the problems there. Work at the other 28 West Coast ports is back to normal, said a Pacific Maritime Association spokesman, Steve Getzug. Work at all of the ports had slowed over a monthslong contract dispute, causing huge backups. A tentative deal was struck Friday; by Saturday night workers were starting to clear the backlogs. West Coast seaports handle roughly one-quarter of US international trade. Dockworkers in Los Angeles worked an overnight shift for the first time in weeks Saturday night, port spokesman Phillip Sanfield said. It will take several months for ports such as Los Angeles and Long Beach — the nation’s largest — to clear the backlogsSanfield said."

"Senators seek rail-safety upgrades" Associated Press  February 16, 2015

NEW YORK — The government should spend more money safeguarding railroad crossings that are ‘‘accidents waiting to happen,’’ two US senators said Sunday.

Senators Charles Schumer and Richard Blumenthal spoke at New York’s Grand Central Terminal, the departure point for the Metro-North train that crashed into a car earlier this month north of the city. The car’s driver died, as did five train passengers.

Although the exact cause of the collision has not been determined, Ellen Brody’s SUV was stuck inside railroad crossing gates moments before the train hit. Instead of backing up, she drove forward onto the tracks.

SeeState Neglected Safety in New York Train Crash

The lawmakers noted that more than 2,000 collisions occurred nationally in grade-crossing accidents in 2013, and more than 200 people died. Schumer and Blumenthal plan to introduce a bill later this month to fund engineering and safety upgrades for crossings.

Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, said that on average there is an accident every three hours at rail intersections that still rely on outdated signal and warning systems.

Schumer, a New York Democrat, said more must be done.

The senators said that if the bill is enacted, funds would go to the Federal Railroad Administration and to states.


Hard to take you guys seriously given the performance above.

Cape Wind vows to move project forward 

They have “just begun to fight,” pffft!

One final explosion:

2 bodies recovered among debris at site of explosion in NYC
‘Inappropriately’ tapped gas line may have fueled explosion, N.Y. mayor says

Truth or agenda-pushing hoax? Sure does stink!


Tanker driver charged in crash on Cape
Investigators seek cause of N.Y. explosion 

One problem was no water to put it out.

"Brown said floods are a concern even during dry years because of climate change."