Global environmental challenges
The Green Gauge: Black mark on Enbridge
Enbridge’s stain on the Kalamazoo River in central Michigan pushed this Calgary-based energy delivery company to the headlines as details emerged about 840,000 gallons of crude that spilled from one of their pipelines into a creek on July 26.
Enbridge leads this installment of The Green Gauge, a breakdown of companies that made headlines July 18 to August 9 for winning or losing credibility based on environment-related activity.
Selections of companies were made by Christopher Greenwald, director of data content at ASSET4, a Thomson Reuters business that provides investment research on the environmental, social and governance performance of major global corporations. These ratings are not recommendations to buy or sell.
Enbridge has come under significant criticism following a spill on July 26 of 840,000 barrels of oil along a creek that flows into the Kalamazoo River in Central Michigan. The spill has led to class action law suits being filed against the company for negligence, as well as complaints by local Congressman Mark Schauer that the spill was not reported in a timely manner to federal authorities. In fact, the first reports of the accident were reported by another company, Consumers Energy. The spill also prompted protests against the company’s proposed pipeline in British Columbia by Greenpeace, which argues that the pipeline will pose environmental risks to the Pacific Coast and would increase the availability of tar sands crude oil to export markets. The environmental costs of oil derived from Canada’s tar sands oil industry was recently highlighted in a article by the Economist, which is available here:
Since the Deepwater Horizon spill unfolded in the Gulf of Mexico starting in April, BP faced another significant pollution incident that has now resulted in a significant lawsuit against the company. Last week, a $10 billion class action law suit was filed on behalf of 2,000 residents and workers as a result of toxic releases of nitrous oxide and benzene at the company’s large Texas City refinery, the same site of the explosion that killed 15 BP workers in 2005 and which faced $87 million in fines from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration last year. The incident occurred between April 6 and May 16, and the law suit alleges that the toxic release poses significant long-term health effects on the workers and residents around the BP’s Texas City refinery.
A link to the Galveston Daily New which originally reported the story in early June is available here.
A significant oil spill has impacted the fishing harbor near Dalian, China, following an explosion at an oil terminal controlled by Petrochina. Although the Chinese government has estimated the size of the spill to be 1,500 tons of crude oil, an independent investigation of the spill by Greenpeace China has concluded that 60,000-90,000 tons of crude oil spilled into the Nantuo Fishing Harbor, which would make the incident larger than the Exxon Valdez spill. In addition to disputing official estimations of the extent of the spill, Greenpeace China has also accused Petrochina of engaging local fisherman to clean-up the spill without proper training and equipment to protect them from potential health hazards.
As part of its PlanetFirst™ initiative, by which the company hopes to become one of the world’s most eco-friendly companies by 2013, Samsung announced that it had spent $865 million dollars in 2009 investing in green product lines and reducing its impact on the environment. The investments helped the company reduce its greenhouse gas intensity by 30 percent, and the company now claims to offer eco-labels for 2,134 different products. These company-announced achievements contrast with complaints by Greenpeace earlier in the year in its guide to Green Electronics that Samsung had backtracked on its previous commitments to eliminate Brominated flame retardants (BFRs) and PVC vinyl plastic by 2010.
For the company’s press release click here.
For a link to Greenpeace’s guide to Green Electronics click here.
Midwestern power producer Xcel Energy last week announced plans to replace two coal-fired power plants in Minnesota with natural gas plants by 2016, which follows an announcement earlier in the year that Xcel will replace coal-fired plants with cleaner burning fuels throughout Colorado by 2017. The company also recently announced continued investments in wind energy, as part of its longer term strategy to generate 20 percent of its energy throughout the Midwest from wind. With 3,000 Wegawatts of power already generated from wind, representing 8 percent of the company’s total capacity, Xcel Energy already is the largest producer of wind energy in the United States, a distinction which it has enjoyed for six years, according to the American Wind Energy Association.
Photo shows Gretchen King holding a protest sign as she joins residents in downtown Marshall to protest the oil spill on the Kalamazoo River July 30, 2010. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook