Hurricane Laura causes dangerous chemical fire in Louisiana

August 31, 2020 by  
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It’s bad enough to stay shut in your house, terrified, as you ride out a Category 4 hurricane. But the people of Westlake, Louisiana had an additional reason to stay inside last week with the windows clamped tight as Hurricane Laura started a fire at BioLab, unleashing chlorine gas over the small town. The hurricane killed at least 14 people, obliterated buildings and tore off roofs as it blustered through southwest Louisiana, home to many of the state’s petrochemical industries. It blew directly over the Hackberry oil field, an area south of Lake Charles that combines active and abandoned oil wells, pipelines and storage tanks with a sensitive marsh ecosystem. It will take some time to figure out the extent of structural and environmental damage. The health consequences may never be known. People who live in this region will only be able to guess in the coming years whether their cancers and other diseases were caused by the chlorine gas or other chemicals, to which they are routinely exposed. Related: Environmental racism in America Chemical leaks are common in Louisiana. Communities around petrochemical companies are accustomed to hearing emergency sirens. Unfortunately, petrochemical companies are often placed in elderly and Black communities. Westlake is less than 5 miles from the decimated town of Mossville, which was started by formerly enslaved peoples in the 1790s. In 2014, the South Africa-based fuel company Sasol bought out most of the residents’ houses to expand its enormous petrochemical plant. Mossville residents were known for staggeringly high concentrations of dioxins in their blood, as found in 1998 tests conducted by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. This highly toxic substance can impair the immune system, disrupt hormone functions, damage the reproductive system and cause cancer and diabetes . Dioxins can form by heating chlorine to high temperatures, which happened last week when BioLab ignited. The BioLab facility, which was built in 1979, occupies 15 acres inside a large industrial complex. It manufactures trichloroisocyanuric acid — a bleaching agent and industrial disinfectant — chlorinating granules and other chemical blends for cleaning products. The fire shut down nearby Interstate 10 and required residents to shelter in place for at least 24 hours. Petrochemical plants often cause problems in hurricanes. Chemical storage tanks are especially problematic. They are built to float, but when the water resettles, the tanks sometimes spring a leak. Floating roofs built to contain vapors often collapse or sink, the wind can buckle tanks and flying debris can puncture a tank’s sides. Because workers are generally evacuated when a storm is on the way, often nobody is there to fix a problem before it has major consequences. Via The Conversation , CNN and The Intercept Image via NOAA

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Hurricane Laura causes dangerous chemical fire in Louisiana

Trump administration furthers Arctic drilling plan

August 19, 2020 by  
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The Trump administration’s environmental protection rollbacks seem to now come daily. Today’s bad news? A plan to allow  oil  and gas companies to drill in Alaska’s so-far pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. In 2017, a Republican tax bill opened part of the refuge to gas and oil leasing. Monday’s development pushed the plan further, aiming to sell the first drilling leases by the end of 2020. Many Republicans back the plan, despite opposition from environmental groups and Alaska’s Indigenous communities. Related: EPA loosens restrictions on methane emissions The over 19 million-acre refuge has long remained off-limits to development. Managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, most of the refuge is true wilderness, free from roads, trails and facilities, and open to the public for exploration. The few travelers who visit access the refuge by private planes and air taxis. Visitors may witness the Polar and grizzly bears , wolves, wolverines, caribou, beluga whales, musk oxen and walruses that call this area home. Though wildlife outnumbers people here, both the Gwich’in and Iñupiat people reside on and live off resources from the land.  Sometimes calling themselves “caribou people,” the Gwich’in have based their culture around these reindeer for centuries. The Gwich’in live in 15 villages across northeast  Alaska  and northwest Canada and have actively fought against gas and oil leasing. David Smith, a Gwich’in leader in Arctic Village, worries that the industries will harm caribou and change his nation’s way of life. “I would say this is like no other place on earth, so we shouldn’t be treated like any other place on earth,” Smith said in an interview with  Alaska Public Media . “I can drive in any direction and  hunt  freely. I can drive in any direction and go trapping.” Despite the recent news, the fight to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge continues. Still, environmental groups say that once companies buy drilling rights, it will be harder for future presidents to stop  Arctic  drilling. “The Trump administration never stops pushing to drill in the Arctic Refuge — and we will never stop suing them,” said Gina McCarthy, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “America has safeguarded the refuge for decades, and we will not allow the administration to strip that protection away now.” Via Thomson Reuters Foundation Image via U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters

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Trump administration furthers Arctic drilling plan

Shell unveils net-zero emissions plan

April 20, 2020 by  
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The oil giant updated investors on sweeping new strategy to deliver net-zero emissions across its entire value chain by 2050.

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Shell unveils net-zero emissions plan

A surge of new plastic production is on the way

January 17, 2020 by  
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Major oil companies, facing the prospect of reduced demand for their fuels, are ramping up their plastics output.

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A surge of new plastic production is on the way

The shift to a low-carbon economy highlights overlap between ESG and finance

December 24, 2019 by  
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Supermajors are acknowledging write-downs, which pose threats to investors — but new standards could help them get on the same page.

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The shift to a low-carbon economy highlights overlap between ESG and finance

The shift to a low-carbon economy highlights overlap between ESG and finance

December 24, 2019 by  
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Supermajors are acknowledging write-downs, which pose threats to investors — but new standards could help them get on the same page.

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The shift to a low-carbon economy highlights overlap between ESG and finance

It will take more than EV promises from car companies to limit climate change damage

December 24, 2019 by  
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This next decade is crucial for the transition away from gasoline, and electric vehicle makers and climate-minded politicians are not going far enough.

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It will take more than EV promises from car companies to limit climate change damage

Preparing for takeoff? Shell and BA step up backing for waste-based jet fuel plant

July 18, 2019 by  
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Velocys secures new investment to complete help plans for Lincolnshire biorefinery project.

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Preparing for takeoff? Shell and BA step up backing for waste-based jet fuel plant

Making drones work for small farmers

July 18, 2019 by  
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Here’s how we can help automation complement agriculture.

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Making drones work for small farmers

Inside Shell’s EV charging vision

July 10, 2019 by  
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This article is adapted from the newsletter Transport Weekly, running Tuesdays. Subscribe here.There was no better example of Shell’s difficult balancing act — between the fossil fuel engine that has driven its business for decades and its aims for a cleaner future — than an unexpected issue that arose at one of its recent events in the San Francisco Bay Area.  

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Inside Shell’s EV charging vision

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