Saturday, December 17, 2016 Fiery Accidents and Toxic Pollution: Louisiana's Environmental Woes Offer a Warning to Trump

By Mike Ludwig
New Orleans -- Last month, a large cloud of flammable gas ignited at an ExxonMobil refinery near Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Six workers were injured during the 14-minute-long fire, and four of them were hospitalized with severe burns. Federal investigators said the flammable plume escaped during "unplanned maintenance" around a pump.
Soon after the accident, Anne Rolfes, the director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, a group that tracks petrochemical pollution and accidents in the state, told reporters that the fire was not an isolated incident. There was a fire at the refinery in December 2015, and the facility reported 890 accidents to the government from 2005 to 2014 -- an average of over one per week.
"This refinery has a terrible safety record," Rolfes said. "Exxon defers maintenance and workers pay the price."  MORE

Bucket Brigade News Release 12/15/16
350Louisiana, DisasterMap.Net, Louisiana Bucket Brigade
Contact: Anne Rolfes, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, 504.452.4909,
For immediate release December 15, 2016
Louisiana Experience Shows Trouble Ahead if Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson is Sec of State
Exxon fails to report accidents; 71 accidents by other companies in two weeks
What and when: Tele press conference about Exxon and accidents, 11:30 am central time
Report summary (map, key findings, spreadsheet of reports) available here
Call in number: (949) 229-4400 Access Code: 9341354#
If you want to see the visuals, register here for the tele press conference.
(New Orleans) As four Exxon workers remain in the burn unit from the November 22nd fire, no
accident reports have been filed by Exxon with the National Response Center about the fire or
other episodes in the two week period. Neighbors near the Exxon refinery reported five
occasions of bad air during the same period.
"You can't help but connect the dots," said Anne Rolfes, Founding Director of the Louisiana
Bucket Brigade. "If Rex Tillerson, the nominee for Secretary of State, does for the world what
Exxon has done for Louisiana, God help us. We will all be hospitalized from accidents and
choking on polluted air. And Mr. Tillerson will refuse to hold a press conference while he actively
funds misinformation."
The total number of reports about petrochemical accidents in Louisiana, both offshore and
inland, was 71. Fifty-five of those accidents were reported to the National Response Center by
the polluting company or passersby. The additional 16 were reported to by
neighbors impacted by the pollution. Dr. Ezra Boyd of has been compiling the
reports since October. "I'm shocked to see week after week, regular citizens are being sickened
in their own homes by chemicals."
The accidents reveal the ongoing infrastructure problems in the oil industry. Thirty of the 55
reports to the National Response Center were from some sort of equipment problem, including
faulty flow lines, leaks, corrosion, failed valves, cracked pipes, split piping and more.
The report also examines an oil spill in a marsh near Cameron Parish. Oil spills in sensitive
areas were shown, in a recent study by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey, to accelerate
land loss. The dynamics of climate change will also be discussed. The map released in today's
report shows that the average temperature in the state has been four degrees above normal in
the last two weeks. The average temperature has been higher than normal for 15 straight
"There is just too much to talk about when we talk about the destruction of the oil industry," said
Ms. Rolfes. "Accidents, air pollution, burned workers, an eroding coastline, climate change.
They get away with it because the harms are overwhelming. But we won't stop. The industry is
wrong. Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson is wrong."
Louisiana Bucket Brigade, 2803 Saint Philip Street, New Orleans, LA 70119

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Berkeley's "Poor Tour": Homeless for the holidays

By Jane Stillwater 

     In Berkeley right now, there is a group of protesters who have organized an action to protest against homelessness in America.  They call themselves "The Poor Tour," and their actions to protect the homeless are the equivalent of Standing Rock's action to protect our water.  The protesters are also trying to make the dire situation of homelessness here in Berkeley visible to the rest of our nation -- and the police are forcefully trying to shut them down.

     According to one organizer, Mike Zint, "Police have raided our action at least four times already.  They illegally seize and destroy our belongings.  The police don't do that to the tweaker camps here but they do it to us.  Why?  It is because we are protesting that we are being constantly hammered."

    And, surprisingly, Zint also told me that many of the homeless in Berkeley are UC students.  "But how can that be?" you might ask.  Easy.  According to Zint, students here have to pay $1,800 a month just to rent a 10 x 15 dorm room -- which they also must share.

     "Some say that the homeless student population at Cal is as much as 10% of the enrollment, but I think it is more like 300 homeless students."  Want a better class of homeless folks besides the tweakers and drunks?  A better class of homeless is definitely on its way!

     "What I suggest," continued Zint, "is to make a whole bunch of tiny homes available.  Each one of these self-equipped mobile tiny homes costs only $16,500 apiece.  They are like mini-RVs, they come with trailer hitches, are portable and cost less than even the cheapest new car.  The City of Berkeley could set up an RV-park type of operation with utility hook-ups, and then students could rent them for only $300 a month."  Like the hook-ups at State parks.

    "But what about you personally," I asked Zint.  "How is all this camping out in the cold and the wet affecting you yourself?"  It's probably not as cold here as it is in North Dakota and the police here don't use rubber bullets yet -- but still.

     "I'm doing okay," answered Zint, "but some of the rest of us aren't."  I know that last week, during one of the heavy rainstorms (while the rest of us were snug and warm in our beds), one of the protesters, Mike Lee, almost died from pneumonia.  Lee says that he got sick because the cops just keep chasing the "Poor Tour" and confiscating their blankets and tents.

     "I'd love to be more articulate about my ides for ending homelessness and to consult with the new mayor about how to solve these drastic problems, but I can't think on my feet while the cops keep chasing me and chasing me."

     "What about the Oakland warehouse fire disaster," I asked Zint. 

    He answered with the simple truth.  "Artists and musicians lived there because they couldn't afford to live in other, more building-code-safe lofts and studios.  The bottom line here is that people are going to look for any way to get out of the weather."

     I really enjoyed talking with members of the Poor Tour.  And I respect what they are doing.  But even though Mike Lee tells me that the protesters' tents will get bedecked with Christmas lights very soon and that even a Christmas tree is in their near future, there really is no place like a real home for the holidays.

PS:  Need I remind you once again that, by simply re-directing the hundreds of billions of American dollars going into war profiteers' pockets, we could easily feed and house every single man, woman and child in America.  No more poor folks sleeping in doorways.  No more children raised in the backseats of cars.  No more frozen dead bodies of our elderly found in cardboard boxes after winter storms.  Not to mention the jobs this would create.

     For instance, the British government just offered a journalist $17,000 a month to make up propaganda lies about not arming ISIS in Aleppo.  And if the Brits are doing that kind of media manipulation, imagine what America's War Street does to grind out its never-ending "fake news".   I wonder how much it pays the New York Times?  And even Democracy Now for its fake news that ISIS butchers are merely "moderate rebels" peacefully hanging out in Aleppo?

        Stop Wall Street and War Street from destroying our world.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Prolific Yosemite photographer’s work stored in HBLL Special Collections

From:  The Universe 

Stay tuned for the forthcoming book and movie, "An Open Secret, by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster


        From:  Collection of the Arthur C. Pillsbury Foundation

It’s a classic family history story: your grandfather was raised by feminists in the late 1800s, invented the time-lapse camera, lived in Yosemite National Park where he was a famous photographer and photographer Ansel Adams may’ve stolen a box of his photographs and claimed them as his own.
OK, so maybe not the classic genealogy story, but it is Melinda Pillsbury-Foster’s story.
Pillsbury-Foster’s paternal grandfather was photographer A.C. Pillsbury, famous for landscapes of Yosemite National Park, the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and time-lapse photos of flowers. His inventions include a circuit panorama camera, a specimen slicer (for microscopy), the X-Ray Motion picture camera and the underwater motion picture camera.  MORE

Massive explosion at one of Europe's biggest oil refineries amid fears toxic cloud could drift across continent

From:  The Mirror 


Italian emergency services have ordered local residents to stay inside their home.
The Italian Department of Civil Protection in the province of Alessandria said in a statement "The fire occurred inside refinery Italian ENI energy company occurred around 15:40 (local time), causing a large fireball of tens of meters."
Eni, Italy's biggest refiner, said in a statement the fire had started at around 4.00 pm in the so-called EST plant at the refinery. The cause was still unknown.  MORE

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Flares to the World - Exxon, PBF et al

Solving the problem of the Torrance Refinery 
– A Real Solution

By EcoAlert Agents
Melinda Pillsbury-Foster and Dave Lincoln

The identity of the party, or parties, responsible is the most important issue when investigating negligent behavior threatening harm to people, property, or both.  Acting in blatant disregard for harm to others can be approached either as a civil or criminal matter depending on if the hazards were known and why the parties failed to act on a timely basis. 

Consider the potential for liability faced by the corporations who have the Torrance Refinery, the governmental bodies who have allowed these conditions to continue after the potential impact on residents was clear to them.  

Medical technologies now exist to document this impact on individuals.  
The Torrance Refinery causes ongoing spillage of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC). A well-run refinery does not have flares.  Torrance is experiencing multiple flares.  

The Torrance Refinery stores Hydrofluoric Acid in two tanks.  The most elementary form of security would have dictated this poisonous material be stored in  many smaller tanks.  This has been ignored.  The LA times reported the MHF tank at Torrance Refinery as 250,000 pounds.  Yet modeling for a potential spill was carried out for an explosion at 50,000 pounds of MHF. 

If damaged mechanically the hydrofluoric Acid will be emitted, staying at ground level.  The resulting vapor could kill 80,000 within 3 miles of the plant and injure the lungs, eyes, noses, and throats of 3-million Angelenos in a 15 mile radius.   Depending on prevailing weather conditions this could reach downtown LA.

In early 2015 one of the tanks barely missed being struck by a falling semi-truck by two feet.  These tanks are also vulnerable to damage by earthquakes.  Sited between two international airports both tanks could be penetrated simultaneously and this says nothing about the potential for a terrorist attack on the facility, which is also possible and easily carried out.  

Yet these alarming possibilities are being downplayed by the city of Torrance, claiming they are more worried about a mere 550 jobs. 

Reflecting this cavalier attitude exhibited by all parties, except residents, Southern California Edison was required to pay $4 M in penalties, none of which will be received by residents impacted.  Instead, the company gets to spend the money on improvements on the infrastructure for which they were supposed to be responsible as part of their cost of doing business.  Grinch Christmas to them!

SCE will be purchasing an infrared monitor, proposed by EcoAlert in their recent proposal submitted to the AQMD – but if the pattern for petroleum companies continues, as previously observed for the last several decades, the real story will be manipulated by averaging the level of toxicity over several days with no specific information on the highs these levels reach.  

The infrared images record when the levels are high and then where these materials fall.  Those areas then need to be tested on the ground.  This, is part of the EcoAlert plan.

There are 300 other gas facilities across the US with no infrared monitoring.

Taking out 25% of Los Angeles is worth about $3-trillion dollars, and local insurance companies covering medical, property, casualty, and funeral expenses will be required by their re-insurance coverage worldwide to raise rates to cover Catastrophe Bonds for this criminal negligence of not updating this plant to sulfuric acid methods that boil at 560-degrees Fahrenheit instead of the 73-degree temperature for hydrofluoric acid. This could take place on most days in the warm California sun. 

The chemical’s modified additives to the H2F2 and HF merely raised its boiling point from 63F to 73F. Other rational interim measures would be to invest $300-million in smaller linked HF tanks with cut-off valves so only a few thousand die in Torrance or Wilmington which is the only other refinery in California not to update to sulfuric acid. 

Residents have endured these conditions for decades. 

Energy for only $595-million. Reason, the billion dollar insurance payment that ought to cover these disasters and liabilities' true cost.  The likelihood residents have suffered levels of impact on their health is extremely likely, depending on individual conditions. These subtle dangers can now be established by infrared cameras and particulate meters to parts per billion by local people getting information to defend themselves from the hazards imposed by the owners of the Torrance Refinery and the governmental entities charged to oversee it.   

Flares, taking place regularly, are authorized retroactively by the SCAQMD.  Liability for actions taking place outside the charge of the few local governmental entities can be ascribed to the government employees taking the actions personally; if this represents a blatant abuse of their obligation to protect those they are appointed or elected to protect.  

The storage of the Hydrofluoric Acid used for processing, which other facilities have abandoned because Hydrofluoric Acid is lethal and presents serious risks to life, has continued at the Torrance Refinery.  The persuasion used to allow this to continue was the assertion by the Exxon they had formulated a modified form of the product which was less lethal.  In fact, Modified Hydrofluoric Acid (HMF), is nearly the same in its potential for lethality.

Reassured by this misrepresentation, the use of Hydrofluoric Acid was tolerated. Fool local insurers once, shame on us. Not twice. Meager self-insurance in the Caribbean’s Cayman Islands by BPF Energy is inadequate in vast measure. The reinsurers will have to take measures quickly as wanton or deliberate neglect gets worse. 

If excuses are given, reinsurers should buy it, shut it down, and either improve it or replace it with the first plant to produce sustainable fuel in California.  This needs to happen and Torrance would benefit thereby.  

The Parties Responsible 

Two major petroleum companies merged to form what is known today as
 ExxonMobil. All liabilities, known and unknown, were accepted as mutually binding as part of the merger. Their merger took place in 1998 and was approved by the FTC on November 30, 1999. 

Exxon owned the Torrance Refinery at the time of the merger.  From 1977 until that date the refinery experienced an explosion and fire with three deaths on December 1, 1979, a fire and explosion and ten injuries on November 1, 1987, a fire and explosion with nine injuries and one death on July 15, 1988, an explosion with 27 injuries on November 1, 1995, an explosion with 20 injuries on November 20, 1995, a leak causing three injuries on April 1, 1999, a death by falling on February 22, 2001, a leak on July 1, 2001, a death by electrocution on April 3, 2003, a death by steam on April 11, 2009, a flare on October 1, 2012, a fire and explosion with four injuries on February 18, 2015, and a leak on September 16, 2015, another leak a month later on October 15, 2015, and a flare on March 16, 2016. 

The Torrance Refinery was sold to PBF Energy, Inc., on May 15, 2016.   
The long-term relationship between ExxonMobil and the entity which now owns, as a subsidiary, the Torrance Refinery needs to be considered in the light of these conditions, which indicate the necessary maintenance was not carried out.  During much of the time Exxon was operating the refinery its status is indicated as Sale Pending, indicating the company was interested in selling but could not find a purchaser.   

The history of PBF Energy, Inc., provides interesting insights.  Because PBF is only the most recent in a chain of corporations under the management of a man named Thomas O’Malley, who launched himself into the refinery business first in Europe and in America beginning in the YEAR following the action that needed careful attention to the chain of human control of the corporations utilized. 

Thomas D. O’Malley formed Argus Resources, an oil and gas production company 1986. At around the same time O’Malley formed Argus Energy LLC, Argus Investments Inc., Argus Development LLC and many other companies based in Connecticut. 

This marked O’Malley’s exit from operating refineries in Europe and his entry into the industry in America.  

Now, we will watch, as if by magic, this one company sheds identities while keeping its essential persona and new business plan intact. The skin means nothing, it is the persons inside making the decisions.  You will need the O’Malley CEO timeline to follow the metamorphosis and understand what is happening as Tom O'Malley provides essential services to the oil industry and becomes wealthy beyond his wildest dreams.
The business model followed is defined by the actions taken and nothing else. 


In 1987, Thomas O’Malley and Argus Energy bought 26% of TOSCO and COMFED BANKCORP in Massachusetts. This mortgage lending company was a dubious investment. 

Indictments for fraud began on January 15 1988.  
A COMFED VP, Elizabeth Bourne-Johnson, was found fatally shot in the head in the trunk of her car in South Boston Mass, not a fate generally associated with the banking industry. 

This same year, O’Malley purchased 40% of TOSCO and became Chairman of the COMFED S&L from 1988 to 1989; at which time he became Chairman and President of TOSCO and moved the headquarters to Connecticut.
Another brutal murder had occurred in Boston about the same time. 

Bookie, John McDermott was fatally shot in the head in front of his son who was seriously injured. The son testified that the killer was William “Billy” Barnoski, the enforcer for James “Whitey” Bulger. Bulger was the mob boss, FBI informant and for 15 years their most wanted fugitive who was linked to at least 19 murders and was known to have operated in South Boston during the time the VP was murdered.
It has been speculated that someone in COMFED management who knew Whitey Bulger had Elizabeth Bourne-Johnson silenced because she knew too much about their policies or finances. No suspect was ever named.

By 1990, COMFED Savings Bank had its assets seized in Wakefield. The largest mortgage lender in New England was declared insolvent on Dec. 17th due to massive fraud. More than 30 managers and employees were arrested and charged with fraud and perjury including the bank’s lawyer.
The Hartford Courant reported that three banks in Connecticut acquired over $500-million in insured deposits for a discounted price of $1.5-million. Elizabeth Bourne-Johnson's murderer was never identified.

Under the control of Tom O'Malley, Tosco began a new lease on corporate life. We could not immediately see why O’Malley had purchased these companies. It appears likely O’Malley made a profit on Comfed Bancorp before it was declared insolvent – but the only assets associated with Tosco at the time were two problematic refineries. 
Moribund and dangerous refineries became O’Malley’s stock in trade. He could have found a way to profit from insurance claims and tax deductions. But the accumulation of wealth for reasons not in evidence was obvious.
The company was about to experience an explosion in profits as the refineries themselves blew up. 

The Shuffling Begins:
1986 – O'Malley incorporates ARGUS Investments - is CEO.
1987 - ARGUS Energy buys 26% of Tosco and Comfed Bancorp for – how much?
1988 – December 1 - O'Malley becomes CEO of Comfed Bankcorp
1988 - ARGUS Energy buys 40% of Tosco.
1989 – O'Malley becomes CEO of Tosco
1992 - TOSCO acquires EXXON Bayway Refinery, Linden, NJ for $175 million.
1993 - TOSCO acquires Ferndale Refinery- Washington State from BP.
1996 - TOSCO buys UNOCAL’s western operations for $1.3 Billion. Transfers of control will take place over several years.
This included: over 2500 Union 76 gas stations and Circle K stores and 7 Refineries.

The Formerly Magnificent Seven
The Los Angeles Refinery ("LAR") System, consisting of two linked refineries located in: Carson (built in 1923)
1996 – TOSCO acquires Wilmington Refinery, CA (built in 1919) from Unocal.
1996 – TOSCO acquires Trainer Refinery - is shutdown - restarted May 1997.
1996 – TOSCO acquires Rodeo Refinery (built in 1896) San Francisco Bay area, and
1997 -  TOSCO acquires Avon Refinery, (built in 1915), Martinez, CA.
1997 -  TOSCO acquired Santa Maria Refinery (built in 1955).

At the time of this purchase Avon, Rodeo and Wilmington Refineries had each experienced at least three fire and/or explosion incidents.

At this point, you might well ask “How did TOSCO, a struggling production company, get a bank to loan them more than $1 Billion to buy refineries more than 75 years old?” This is the essence of O’Malley’s strategy.
The inflated value of the assets was used as collateral on the loans. He convinced the banks, some of which he controlled, that the refineries were worth their replacement value rather than their actual depreciated value. To maintain this deception, all he had to do was to demonstrate how many barrels per day of products these old facilities could produce and that they could still operate at a profit. This dictated that every refinery purchased would be pushed to its maximum capacity, and operating costs would be kept to the minimum. Thus by delaying maintenance and cutting personnel to the bone, TOSCO could maximize profit and use the new assessed value to justify larger loans and purchase more distressed refineries.
The fallacy of these arguments was tragically revealed on January 22, 1997, when TOSCO’s Avon Refinery caught fire and a pipe blew up killing one worker and injuring 46. TOSCO waited more than a week to report the actual number of injured; meanwhile continuing to operate the units not directly impacted by the blast. TOSCO responded by buying the nearly 100-yr old Marcus Hook, PA Refinery from BP for $235 million dollars that same year. Why would a company expend money on further purchases when the refineries they owned needed repair and maintenance?
Then on February 23, 1999 the TOSCO Avon Refinery blew up again; killing 4 and seriously injuring one worker. This time, Thomas O’Malley, CEO of TOSCO apologized in person. The subsequent Chemical Safety Board (CSB) investigation found that the company attempted to replace a pipe in a 150 ft. tall fractionating tower while the unit was still operating. One surviving employee stated that plant managers had refused a request from oil workers to shut down the high temperature unit during repairs which ultimately spilled hot Naphtha onto the employees burning them to death. The CSB concluded the incident "could have been prevented by better management supervision of safety". The same year, TOSCO reported a fire at its Wilmington Refinery.
On February 29, 2000, TOSCO acquired and began operating an additional system of 1,740 gasoline and convenience outlets from EXXON. As a result of this purchase, TOSCO became one of the nation's largest operators of company-controlled convenience stores. Also, during that year, two more fires occurred at the TOSCO Avon Refinery; each time injuring another two workers. In addition, TOSCO reported a fire at its Rodeo Refinery.
In 2001, on the strength of TOSCO stock and its refining and marketing assets, Phillips paid $7.3 Billion in stock for TOSCO while assuming over $2 Billion in debt. O’Malley becomes Vice Chair and largest stockholder of Phillips.
In 2002, CONOCO merges with Phillips. O'Malley is not included in this corporate makeover. Instead, O’Malley becomes CEO of PREMCOR; a company that changed their name from Clark Refining Group after it was taken over by Blackstone Investments. The company’s main asset was the Clark Oil Refinery (built in 1943) on Blue Island near Chicago, Illinois. This refinery had already been plagued with problems including a fire in 1994 which resulted in an infamous toxic dust release. The dust forced the evacuation of a nearby high school, the hospitalization of 48 students for respiratory distress and an eventual PREMCOR $120 million settlement which involved 4000 residents. 
This was followed a year later by a fire at the same refinery which killed two workers and injured 3 others and resulted in an out-of-court settlement of $12 million to the victims and their families.
Also in 2002, PREMCORP closed the Clark Refinery and paid the EPA $6.2-million in fines for environmental violations.
PREMCORP, now with O’Malley at the helm, responds by purchasing the 60-year-old Williams Refinery (built in 1941) in Memphis, Tenn. for $455 million. O’Malley characteristically moves PREMCORP headquarters from St. Louis, MO to Greenwich, CT. It then acquired two other small refineries, located in Lima, Ohio and Hartford, Illinois. Three more purchases of refineries.
By 2004, PREMCOR bought Saudi Shell Motiva Refinery in Delaware City, NJ for $900 million. The following year VALERO, one of the nation’s largest petroleum retailers, paid $7.4 Billion for PREMCORP. Another liability gap in value that should be suspicious today to Torrance residents and the heart of Los Angeles.
In May 2006, O’Malley joined PETROPLUS as CEO. At the time, the company was an international refiner based in Amsterdam with three relatively small refineries. They owned one each in 3 countries; Belgium, Switzerland and the UK. Over the next 2 years, O’Malley led PETROPLUS through the purchase of five more large European refineries at a total cost of more than $3 Billion becoming Europe’s largest independent refiner.
In 2008, Thomas O'Malley formed and became Chairman of PBF with financing from PETROPLUS, Blackstone Investments and First Reserve Bank.
In 2009, the PETROPLUS Ingolstadt Refinery in Germany catches fire. Also, VALERO closes the Delaware City NJ refinery permanently as a cost-cutting measure. VALERO acquired it from PREMCORP in the takeover and was forced to take a write-down. In the previous 5 years, the Delaware City refinery had experienced 2 major fires resulting in a total of 2 deaths and 10 injuries.
In 2010, PBF bought the shuttered Delaware City Refinery from VALERO Energy for $220-million and the Paulsboro Holdings and Paulsboro Refinery in New Jersey/ Pennsylvania for $360 million. PBF also bought the Toledo, Ohio refinery from Sunoco for $400 million. PETROPLUS sells its interests in PBF for $90-million and reports annual revenues of $20 Billion that year. O'Malley is taking his purchases with him as he changes skins. Paulsboro Holdings is to be considered the accounting predecessor to PBF Energy according to later 2012 SEC filing documents.
At the end of 2011, the bank lenders froze the PETROPLUS $1 Billion credit line. Amazingly, PETROPLUS lost $9-Billion between 2007 and 2011 when O’Malley resigned as Chairman. On January 12. 2012, the company became insolvent when it defaulted on nearly $2-Billion on bonds and notes. O’Malley responded by taking PBF public with a $500 million IPO.
Also in 2012, the Memphis Refinery which VALERO acquired in the PREMCORP takeover caught fire and exploded. One employee was killed and two others were injured.
The year 2015 was an exciting one for O’Malley and PBF Energy Inc. In February, the Paulsboro Refinery (which the company acquired from Tesoro just four years before) exploded killing one worker. This was followed by two separate fires at the Delaware City Refinery, the same facility that PBF had taken out of mothballs after VALERO closed it 5 years earlier. PBF responded with the purchase of the 100-yr-old Chalmette, LA Refinery (built in 1915) from EXXON and the Venezuelan National Oil Company (PDVSA) for $322 million.
O’Malley was reportedly rewarded with a $8.3 million annual salary. Why would exploding refineries be viewed as assets unless O’Malley’s business is as a disposal unit for ‘un-assets’ and liabilities? 

We believe the answer is the practice of self-insuring by the corporations at a rate far below the insurance liabilities for the surrounding communities. Local insurance companies who don’t want to go broke had better speak up to BPF and to reinsurers both as better scientific data is accumulated locally and in the radius of destruction with prevailing winds and off shore wind flows inland.

This is what happened in Mayflower, Arkansas in 2013.  Homeowners were told there was no coverage for the Exxon Spill which had taken place within their community.  This would have been the case if Exxon had self-insured while failing to acquire the needed reinsurance to account for the potential losses to cover the retail insurance companies’ potential losses in these areas. 

The solution is to inform the industry for reinsurance who will certainly inform the local insurance companies of man-made disaster potentials both subtle and for explosive profits that are not being spent on safety, modern processes, nor disaster mitigation in the interim of systems’ redesign or temporary shut-downs immediately while giant H2F2 tanks are drained. 

Reinsurance companies, who stand to lose billions and trillions of dollars, are far larger than the retail, local sellers of insurance, and far larger than PBF Energy. There is only $4B of reinsurance carried in the Caymans where PBF self-insures itself. The loss of two buildings in New York on 9/11 cost $2-trillion to the reinsurance industry who hadn’t anticipated that although they are excellent with covering local insurance companies with natural disasters when they think ahead. 

Reinsurance firms had $36B on the ground in New Orleans in 6 weeks after Hurricane Katrina. Perhaps you recall while governments promised $100B, they delivered only $10B to individuals and paid $10B to the US Army Corps of Engineers to rebuild their dikes. Reinsurance missed anticipating the Malaysian tsunami but had money flow in place to mitigate the Fukashima tsunami. Similarly, today, locals must inform the reinsurers that they are missing a set of dangers in five plants across America. 

When they note this kind of failure to cover potential losses action is taken resulting in higher costs for identified hazards and catastrophes.  When this real cost of doing business is exposed through this means, local insurance companies are forced to use reinsurance or be bankrupted if a loss occurs.  

A copy of this article, and others following with more detailed information, have been sent priority to the Reinsurance Association of America (RAA), which will be holding its annual convention February 14 – 17th, 2017 in Orlando, Florida.  We expect to attend to make a presentation to the body.  

Melinda Pillsbury-Foster 
Founder & President
Arthur C. Pillsbury Foundation

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Cushing Oklahoma - Get Ready for Disaster - Frack Quakes in Exactly the Wrong Place

Frack Quakes

Big Oil’s Four Dog Defense &
How to Beat it!


Frack Quakes are human induced earthquakes caused by the injection or withdrawal of drilling related fluids.  Do not be fooled by industry jargon; Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking) cannot take place without disposal usually re-injection of vast amounts of wastewater and toxic chemicals. By the same token oil and gas production cannot continue without the production and frequently the injection of vast amounts of water into the rocks.
A study of past litigation against offending oil companies by Eco-Alert reveals a legal strategy which is referred to as the Four Dog Defense. In the past, victims became aware of this carefully honed strategy only when they have signed with an attorney for representation. We are presenting this defense and the counter arguments as a public service in the context of induced or triggered earthquake damage.

 The four dog defense was developed by the tobacco industry and it works like this:

  1. My Dog Does Not Bite. (Fracking activities do not cause Earthquakes)
  2. My Dog Bites, But It Didn't Bite You. (Some fracking activities have caused earthquakes but not in this area.)
  3. My Dog Bit You. But It Didn't Hurt You. (Fracking related earthquakes are very small and have not been shown to cause significant damage)
  4. My Dog Bit You and Hurt You, But It Wasn't My Fault (We didn’t know that fracking activities could cause significant earthquake damage, but we have taken every precaution to limit the chances of earthquakes and prevent damages in the future.)

Now let us debunk these arguments one at a time
1.       My Dog Does Not Bite. (Fracking activities do not cause Earthquakes)
All Oil and Gas companies know this is a lie. Therefore, they disguise their defense in industry jargon designed to limit both the time frame and conditions under which the rebuttal cases can be applied. They talk about high volume horizontal drilling, or slick-water drilling They obfuscate with proppants, gels and produced water.
They basically drill the hole vertically and horizontally, line it with pipe and cement, perforate the pipe and then pump fluids in as a way to enhance pumping gas and fluids out. The big differences between traditional completions are the higher pressures, much higher volumes and the mix of chemicals they add to the fluids being pumped in.
40 Case Studies for Induced or Triggered Earthquakes-McGarr 2002
The 1983 Coalinga earthquake [M6.2] occurred beneath a major producing oil field, but geologists were initially skeptical that the two were related due to the 6-mile depth of the earthquake focus. Numerous large aftershocks in the vicinity of the field failed to convince them at the time  
But the ensuing occurrence of large earthquakes directly beneath two other oil fields from which exceptional amounts of liquid had been extracted, i.e., the 1985 M = 6.1 Kettleman North Dome and the 1987 M = 6 Whittier Narrows earthquakes, generated renewed interest in a possible link between oil production and large, midcrustal earthquakes. McGarr (1991) noted that the dimensions of the oil fields, 13 km for Coalinga, 23 km for Kettleman North Dome, and 6 km for the Montebello field above the Whittier Narrows earthquake, are similar to the dimensions of the respective aftershock sequences.
Of particular interest, though, is that the ratios of net liquid production to total seismic moment are nearly the same for all three events. The agreement between the seismic deformation and expectations based on liquid production is quite good
These are only a few of the more than 40 case studies for induced or triggered earthquakes from man-made activities documented by McGarr in 2002.

LOS ANGELES BASIN CASE STUDY   Injection-Induced Seismicity Leading Edge 2015

The Century of LA Basin Fields (Hauksson et al 2015) revealed 6 damaging events of as much as Mag 3.3 induced by fluid extraction from 1947 to 1961 in the Wilmington oil field, before fluid injection became common. Historical production at the Wilmington oil field was linked to significant surface subsidence as well as some induced seismicity. The subsidence in the Wilmington field reached about 30 feet from 1926–1968 and affected the Los Angeles harbor and adjacent regions. Due to high production rates in Los Angeles, only three oil fields — Huntington Beach, Richfield, and Wilmington — have experienced net injection since 1977. The Wilmington earthquakes began about two decades after the initiation of extraction.

Previously, both the 1933 M 6.4 Long Beach and the 1987 M 5.9 Whittier Narrows earthquakes occurred close to major oil fields, the Huntington Beach and Montebello fields. Deeper seismicity within these oilfields exhibited apparent rate increases and also in the 2001 sequence beneath the Beverly Hills oil field, and the 2014 MW 5.1 La Habra sequence near the abandoned West-Coyote field.

Earthquakes induced by extraction might be less likely to occur than events caused by injection because crustal stress changes resulting from fluid extraction are approximately an order of magnitude lower than for fluid injection.


One of the earliest and most spectacular examples of seismicity related to fluid injection occurred near Denver, Colorado in the 1960s (Evans, 1966; Healy et al., 1968) Hazardous wastes were being injected under high pressures at a depth of 3.7 km at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal. Soon after injection started, earthquakes began to be felt in the Denver area, a region that previously had experienced little or no earthquake activity. The seismicity was initially concentrated near the bottom of the injection well, but eventually spread along a linear zone for about 8.7 km. Of particular interest, however, is
that the largest earthquake, of magnitude 4.85 (Herrmann et al., 1981) occurred more than a year after injection had ceased.

Liquid waste was injected into the 1.8 km deep basal Paleozoic formation of the Appalachian Plateau near Ashtabula Ohio. A magnitude 3.6 mainshock occurred in 1987 a year after the onset of injection and more than 30 km from any other known earthquake.

2.      My Dog Bites, But It Didn't Bite You. (Some fracking activities have caused earthquakes but not of this magnitude in this area.)
The following case studies are based on a recently released volume of the LEADING EDGE Special Section on Injection Induced Seismicity from June 2015.

According to Fox News [Feb 14, 2016], briny wastewater, a result of gas and oil production, has been blamed for the increasing number of earthquakes in Oklahoma. Though there are options available to reduce, or even eradicate, some of these collections of wastewater, oil and gas operators are reluctant to take any steps to lessen the volume.
Oklahoma experiences more earthquakes than anywhere in the world. Before 2009, Oklahoma had two earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or greater each year, but now there are two a day. A 5.1 magnitude earthquake that shook northwest Oklahoma Feb 14, 2016 was the third-strongest ever recorded in the state, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said. And, on Feb 23, 2016 experienced seven earthquakes which rattled the city of Edmond in central Oklahoma.
A Century of Earthquakes in Oklahoma Hough and Page 2015 Bull SSA
The rate of earthquakes has increased sharply since 2009 in the central and eastern United States, with growing evidence confirming that these earthquakes are primarily caused by human activity, namely the injection of wastewater in deep disposal wells
"In Oklahoma, seismicity rates since 2009 far surpass previously observed rates at any time during the 20th century," The lead author states most of the significant earthquakes in Oklahoma during the 20th century may also have been induced by oil production activities Deep injection of waste water, now recognized to potentially induce earthquakes, in fact began in the state in the 1930s."
Prior to the 2011 magnitude 5.7 Prague, Oklahoma earthquake, the largest historical earthquake in the area was the 1952 magnitude 5.7 El Reno earthquake, which the study concludes was likely induced by activities related to oil production near Edmond, Oklahoma.

Efforts to Monitor and Characterize the Recent Increasing Seismicity in Central Oklahoma McNamara et al 2015 

South-central Oklahoma is the most populated region of the state, with more than one million inhabitants in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area. It is also the location of significant energy-industry and national strategic infrastructure such as the Cushing crude-oil storage facility

The specific earthquake sequences observed in central Oklahoma in recent years do not behave with a typical main-shock–  aftershock progression. Instead, they are swarmlike, similar to volcanic sequences, with large- and small-magnitude events   interspersed in time, and most of the larger earthquakes are preceded by numerous moderate foreshocks. The November 2011 Prague, Oklahoma, sequence is a good example, with an equal number of magnitude 4 foreshocks and aftershocks.
1.       My Dog Bit You. But It Didn't Hurt You. (Fracking related earthquakes are very small and have not been shown to cause damage)
Modern fracking methods require 4-8 million gallons of water and use toxic additives such as diesel fuel, biocides, benzene, acids and more recently polyacrylamides.  These can consist of more than 300 individual chemicals whose function is to prop open fractures, decrease friction increase fluid viscosity, prevent clays from swelling, break emulsions, reduce surface tension etc. many of these chemicals have never been tested for toxicity to humans and some are still claimed to be proprietary.
Benzene is a known carcinogen responsible for increased rates of leukemia and liver failure. Operators frequently argue that the fracking fluids only contain about 1% benzene but that still amounts to 40,000 to 80,000 gallons of a potent cancer causing chemical. Polyacrylamide is not very toxic except that it always contains impurities of acrylamide which is a neurotoxin.  Furthermore, conditions in the subsurface may cause degradation and depolymerization (above 300deg F leading to even more acrylamide.)

Elevated hazard for Oklahoma City. Beginning in 2010 and continuing to the time of writing (late February 2015), earthquake rates have shown a significant increase in the region northeast of Oklahoma City.
In 2014, 608 magnitude 3 and greater earthquakes occurred in central Oklahoma (more than in California), including 17 earthquakes with magnitudes of 4 or larger (a rate of 1.4/month). This year, 2015, shows no sign of decline in earthquake rate, with more than 200 M 3 and nine M 4 earthquakes by late March — a rate of three M 4 and larger earthquakes per month (Figure 2).
Of particular concern for residents of Oklahoma City are active earthquake sequences associated with long fault structures that might be capable of supporting large earthquakes (M 5 to 6).
Faulting in this area “could cause a cascade of earthquakes in the same manner as the Prague sequence in November 2011 (Sumy et al., 2014). An earthquake of similar magnitude to the Prague MW 5.6 would produce severe shaking a broad region around the epicenter (MMI VIII) and would pose significant hazard to the higher-population-density region of the Oklahoma City metropolitan area.
Do you think the people of OKC should have a vote on whether they would risk their lives and the lives of their families in order for the obsolete oil industry to make a larger profit while demanding their right to dump their waste water in the nearest well?

October 2014 Cushing earthquake sequence: Elevated hazard for national strategic infrastructure.
In October 2014, two moderate-sized earthquakes (MW 4.0 and 4.3) struck immediately south of Cushing, Oklahoma, 5 km beneath the site of the largest crude-oil storage facility in the conterminous United States and a major hub of the U. S. oil-and-gas pipeline transportation system (Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, 2015).
Minor damage was reported throughout Cushing, including cracked plaster, broken window glass, and items thrown from shelves.
Shortly after the 7 October 2014 Cushing MW 4.0 event, the OCC halted injection operations at three wells within a six-mile radius around the main-shock epicenter. This was the first implementation of the OCC’s traffic-light system since its inception in late 2013.
Earthquakes within the Cushing sequence are of particular interest because of their proximity to critical industry infrastructure. Based on the results from this study and the similarity of the conjugate strike-slip fault systems in Cushing and Prague, we suggest that a moderate-magnitude (M 5.6) earthquake, similar to the 2011 Prague earthquake (M 5.6) could occur at the conjugate fault intersection directly beneath the Cushing oil storage facility. The Oklahoma Geological Survey reports that the immediate vicinity of the 2011 Prague M 5.6 epicenter experienced very strong shaking of intensity levels (MMI VII = 18-34% g) shaking intensity of MMI VII could cause moderate to heavy damage to storage tanks in the Cushing facility depending on the tank height, diameter and percent fill [O’Rourke and S0, 2000]
Based on the stress changes due to the 2014 Cushing sequence and continued wastewater injection, we hypothesize tha the Cushing and Wilsetta-Whitehall fault zones are critically stressed in a region sufficient enough to increase the likelihood of a large and damaging earthquake similar to the 2011 M 5.6 Prague earthquake.
With the plummeting price of crude oil, the Cushing storage facility was expected to approach peak capacity (80 million barrels) by April 2015 (Wilmoth, 2015), exposing critical resources and infrastructure to elevated earthquake hazard. The OCC implementation of the traffic-light system has been a success so far in this case for mitigating potential damage to the Cushing facility and possibly avoiding an environmental disaster for the residents of nearby Cushing and costly cleanup for the energy industry.
Recent seismicity in northwest-central Oklahoma. Northwestern central Oklahoma has experienced the most recent seismicity as a result of northwest migration of active earthquake sequences.
The most recent of these larger events occurred within six days of each other, 30 January and 5 February 2015, within 10 km of Cherokee. After the MW 4.0 on 30 January 2015, injection operations at the SandRidge Energy Miguel well were halted. This marks the second implementation of the OCC traffic-light system. Less than a week after this decision [injection well shut-in] was made, a second large earthquake occurred (MW 4.2), less than 8 km from the first, with multiple smaller accompanying aftershock
They concluded “that the increased rate and occurrence of earthquakes near optimally oriented and long fault structures has raised the earthquake hazard in central Oklahoma and has increased the probability for a damaging earthquake.
Recent seismicity in northwest
2.      My Dog Bit You and Hurt You, But It Wasn't My Fault (We didn’t know that fracking activities could cause significant Earthquakes but we have taken every precaution to limit the chances of earthquakes and prevent damages in the future.)

To combat this argument, you will have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that companies have known since the mid 1970’s that fluid injection and extraction have triggered shallow earthquakes. Fortunately, recent research has documented historical frack quakes in the West and Midwest which leave little doubt.
A recent study concluded that the M 3.0 Ohio earthquake on 10 March 2014 was induced by hydraulic fracturing (Skoumal et al., 2015). Additionally, there are now examples in England which have been documented.
High-Rate Injection is Associated with the Increase in U.S Mid-Continent Seismicity – Weingarten et al 2015 Science
The authors found “the entire increase in earthquake rate is associated with fluid injection wells. High-rate injection wells (>300,000 barrels per month) are much more likely to be associated with earthquakes than lower-rate wells.” One previous study examined earthquakes in Texas’s Barnett Shale region and found that earthquakes are commonly located near wells injecting more than 150,000 barrels per month.
The injection of fluids into the subsurface has been known to induce earthquakes since the mid-1960s [in the Mid-Continent]. The largest observed [induced earthquake] prior to 2011 was the M 4.9 Rocky Mountain Arsenal earthquake in 1967.
The central and eastern United States(CEUS) has seen an unprecedented increase in earthquake rate since 2009, and many of these earthquakes are believed to be induced (7). Along with the increased rate, several damaging earthquakes have occurred such as the 2011 magnitude (M) 5.6 Prague, Oklahoma, earthquake (8, 9), the 2011 M 5.3 Trinidad, Colorado, earthquake (10), the 2012M4.8 Timpson, Texas, earthquake (11), and the 2011 M 4.7 Guy, Arkansas, earthquake.
The database contained 187,570 wells as of December 2014, with 56% actively injecting fluid (Fig. 1) and the remaining 44% being inactive or abandoned
During the study period (1973 to 2014), they identified 7175 earthquake events in the catalog in the CEUS region. They considered any earthquake within 15 km of an active injection well to be associated with that well. They found 18,757 injection wells (~10% of all wells) associated with earthquakes in the CEUS after filtering, mostly in the states of Oklahoma and Texas (Fig. 1). The number of associated injection wells has tripled since the year 2000.
Wells in central and northcentral Oklahoma are the main contributors to the dramatic increase in associated seismicity. New production methods in these regions are generating large volumes of produced water, which are injected at high rates. Only 8% of all injection wells are located in Oklahoma, but 40% of the associated injection wells in the CEUS are located in Oklahoma. High-rate Salt Water Disposal wells are nearly twice as likely as low-rate wells to be near an earthquake. These high-rate wells perturb the ambient reservoir pressure by a larger magnitude and over a larger area than low-rate wells, thus increasing the likelihood that pressure changes will reach an optimally oriented, critically stressed fault.
They concluded nearly a year ago that “the oil and gas industry and regulatory bodies can use this operational parameter to lower the likelihood of earthquakes associated with injection wells.”

Shaking intensity from injection-induced versus tectonic earthquakes in the central-eastern United States Hough 2015 LEADING EDGE

Seventeen CEUS events are considered between 2013 and 2015. The results of this study suggest that 15 of the 17 events, most of which occurred in areas where induced earthquakes have been documented in recent years, are induced
[Oil companies know if evidence is not gathered it cannot be used in court. Removing links in the body of evidence makes it impossible to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the offending company is responsible. Therefore, oil companies refuse to supply essential information on the contents of the spill, claiming it is proprietary. Ask yourself, how can it be legitimate to claim information on the material damaging the health of victims is proprietary?]

And why is the offending company allowed access to materials which, in any other investigation, would be secured by law enforcement?

The company knew what was flowing through their pipe – but the victims, including locally hired clean-up workers, do not. To ensure justice is done the offending company should be denied any contact with the spilled material. This should be gathered and analyzed, directly, by law enforcement.


USGS Publications on Induced Seismicity