August 1, 2015

Keystone pipeline marks one-billionth barrel of oil moved

Pipeline2While controversy and court battles continue over the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, the “other” original Keystone pipeline marked a milestone last week.

That pipeline has moved one-billion barrels of oil since it went into operation in 2010.

Cory Goulet, president of Keystone Projects for TransCanada, says 14 spills have been documented from the pipeline during that time.

“Most of them were a couple of gallons in size,” Goulet says, “and they were all associated with either pumps or valves or other equipment that just needs regular maintenance.” He says since the maintenance schedule has been stepped up, there have been no spills in the past several years.

Goulet says the bulk of the 14 leaks happened soon after the line began moving oil.

“None of those spills were the base pipeline itself,” he says. “The largest one was 400 barrels in size and except for five barrels that was sprayed onto a farmer’s field, 395 barrels were contained within the dike system on the pump station.”

The Keystone pipeline crosses North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas. The line now moves more than 400,000 barrels of oil every day.

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline still needs President Obama’s approval before it can be built across Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska, connecting to the existing Keystone pipeline.

TransCanada says 90% of Nebraska landowners along the proposed route have agreed to sign easements.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton


Deadline to comment on Renewable Fuel Standards is today

Gov. Pete Ricketts speaks at a news conference on the RFS. Iowa Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds is to his right and Novozymes General Manager Kyle Nixon is to his left.

Gov. Pete Ricketts speaks at a news conference on the RFS. Iowa Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds is to his right and Novozymes General Manager Kyle Nixon is to his left.

Gov. Peter Ricketts wants you to complain to the EPA about the RFS.

The EPA, of course, is the Environmental Protection Agency.

The RFS is the Renewable Fuel Standard.

The EPA has proposed weakening the RFS, requiring the nation’s fuel supply have billions of gallons less of bio-fuels mixed in; a change which would greatly reduce the demand for ethanol.

Ricketts holds out hope that public pressure could convince the EPA to leave the RFS alone.

But, could public pressure actually change the proposal by the EPA.

“Well, certainly, the only chance that we have to be able to change their perspective is for people to reach out and let them know and just like anything else our federal officials want to hear from their constituents,” Ricketts tells Nebraska Radio Network.

Today is the deadline for public comment.

The easier and quickest way to comment is through the Internet. Go to to post a comment about the RFS.

Nebraska is second in ethanol production behind Iowa. Nebraska officials say a cutback in ethanol demand could greatly harm the state economy.

The governor’s office released an economic analysis by Fuels America released this year that claims the RFS is driving $184 billion in economic activity and more than 850,000 jobs with $46 billion in wages across America.

The local impact for Nebraska is estimated at $11.1 billion and nearly 40,000 jobs. Likewise, the impact for Iowa is projected at $19.3 billion and 73,000 jobs.

The United States produces 14 billion gallons of biofuels a year.

Nebraska officials claim the EPA is reneging on its commitment to follow Congressional action in 2007 that revised the RFS.

UNL drought forecasters look ahead to hot & dry versus cold & wet

DroughtLong-range forecasters say the overall trend of cooler, wetter weather will likely continue for the next several months, with some periods of hot and dry mixed in, followed by what may be a mild winter ahead.

Brian Fuchs, a climatologist at the National Drought Mitigation Center, which is based at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, says the regional climate outlook, going out just eight-to-14 days, shows the rest of July and into August will be on the warm side.

“The eight-to-14 is showing temperatures being above normal during this time,” Fuchs says, “and when you couple that with the precipitation, it does look like after the next seven-day period, it is looking like the potential for drier-than-normal conditions from the Ohio River Valley into the Midwest.”

Fuchs says the trend from late summer into fall looks to be more of what we have seen most of the first half of the year.

“If you look at the probabilities of seeing above-normal precipitation, that starts out in the Southwest and continues into the Central Rockies out onto the Plains and catching part of the Midwest,” Fuchs says. “That’s also associated with temperatures being below normal.”

With a very strong El Nino weather pattern developing in the Pacific Ocean, Fuchs says the winter outlook is trending toward less snow and cold for most of the country’s northern half.

“We’re seeing those warmer-than-normal temperature probabilities staying in place from the Pacific Northwest through the Northern Plains,” he says, “and the below-normal temperature probabilities from the Southern Plains through the Southeast continue as well.”

Fuchs says the El Nino is now trending up and could be one of the strongest ever recorded.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton


Dakota City man gets prison time for violating Clean Air Act

GavelA Nebraska man will serve time in prison for a pollution violation in Sioux City, Iowa.

Investigators say 54-year-old Larry Wolf of Dakota City, Nebraska, had family and friends help him remove asbestos and asbestos-containing material from the old YMCA in Sioux City in 2014 without properly determining the amount of asbestos in the building.

Wolf took some of the scrap metal from the facility and sold it for more than $30,000 and then lied to investigators about the type of material he took from the building.

Wolf pleaded guilty to one count of knowingly violating the Clean Air Act.

He was sentenced to one year and one day in prison, and two years probation.


Nebraska science professor excited to see Pluto photos (AUDIO)

One of the images sent from Pluto to NASA by the New Horizon spacecraft

One of the images sent from Pluto to NASA by the New Horizon spacecraft

Images from Pluto keep coming to Earth and a Nebraska science professor who has participated in the project is more than pleased with the results.

Assistant Physics Professor Nathaniel Cunningham with Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln began working with NASA’s New Horizon project in 2007, a year after its launch.

Now, a few billion miles later, a spacecraft traveling 31,000 miles an hour has flown 8,000 miles from Pluto.

“This is the fastest spacecraft ever launched from Earth and still takes 9-and-a-half years to get there,” Cunningham tells Kevin Thomas, host of Drive Time Lincoln on Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN.

Cunningham calls this basic science, basic exploration as New Horizon gives us the first close-up look at what now is considered a dwarf planet along with its five moons.

Cunningham says the debate on Pluto’s status remains active and he jokingly gives permission for the public to keep referring to it as a planet.

New Horizon has sent some incredible images of the reddish-brown “planet” and its moons back, providing a view we have never had before.

Cunningham says more high-resolution images are to come.

“I’m really excited to see what comes down the next few days and we’ll keep getting this waterfall of data for over a year.”

For NASA New Horizon Pluto photos, click here.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:45]