Another Day, Another Oil Spill

Americans United for Change recently posted a list of oil spills in the US in recent months. 

Date Spill
04.15.2014 Pipeline rupture spews 50,000 gallons of crude oil in LA
04.01.2014 Less Than 24 Hours After Virginia Oil Train Spill, Same Company Derails Again In Maryland
03.29.2014 An ExxonMobil pipeline carrying Canadian Wabasca heavy crude from the Athabasca oil sands ruptured and spilled thousands of barrels of oil in Mayflower, Arkansas. The ruptured pipeline gushed 210,000 gallons of heavy Canadian crude into a residential street and forced the evacuation of 22 homes. 
03.25.2014 BP Refinery Leaks Oil Into Lake Michigan
03.23.2014 Texas Barge Collision Spills Up To 168,000 Gallons Of ‘Sticky, Gooey, Thick, Tarry’ Oil
03.24.2014 EPA says Ohio oil leak at 20K gallons
02.05.2014 Train Spills 12,000 Gallons Of Oil In Minnesota
2013 What A Year: 45 Fossil Fuel Disasters The Industry Doesn’t Want You To Know About
11.08.2013 A 90-car train carrying North Dakota crude derails and explodes in a rural area of western Alabama. Flames spewed into the air on a Friday, finally dying down by Sunday, in what the Huffington Post called “the most dramatic U.S. accident since the oil-by-rail boom began.” 
10.30.2013 17,000 gallons of crude oil spill from an eight-inch pipeline owned by Koch Pipeline Company in Texas. The spill impacted a rural area and two livestock ponds near Smithville and was discovered on a routine aerial inspection.
09.29.2013 North Dakota farmer discovered the largest onshore oil spill in U.S. history, the size of seven football fields. At least 20,600 barrels of oil leaked from a Tesoro Corp-owned pipeline onto the Jensens’ land, but was not reported to North Dakotans for more than a week. 
08.28.2013  “Well-control incident” at an oil drilling rig in rural south Texas causes an “intense” explosion after workers were drilling horizontally into the Eagle Ford Shale, causing homes to be evacuated.
08.28.2013 Approximately 20 gallons of partially refined petroleum from a New Jersey refinery spilled into the Delaware River. The spill was reported two hours after workers discovered the leak going into the river. 
07.27.2013 BP’s Hercules 265 offshore gas rig in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana explodes, enveloping the rig in a cloud of gas and a thin sheen of gas in the water. After spewing gas for more than a day, the rig finally “bridged over,” meaning small pieces of sediment and sand blocked more gas from escaping.
03.27.2013 A Canadian Pacific Railway train derails, spilling 30,000 gallons of tar sands oil in western Minnesota. Reuters called it “the first major spill of the modern North American crude-by-rail transit boom.

While no one expects the United States to be completely independent of oil, there is increased pressure to increase the use of alternatives with fewer environmental consequences for cities, rural areas and the people employed to manage volatile facilities. The latest, a 50,000 gallon crude oil from a ruptured spill gushed on an LA street’ on May 15th, left 'knee-high' trail in some places.

The frequency of spills, which are often underreported, calls into question the wisdom of the Keystone pipeline, which has farmers and landowners concerned for the safety of their property. For Americans United for Change, the spills highlight a demand for a national policy that would support policies that reduce dependence on oil, while supporting new industries that make cleaner and safer forms of energy generation.

Jeremy Funk, Communications Director at Americans United for Change, said that, "The alarming frequency of these costly, environmentally devastating and sometimes deadly disasters should give the EPA serious pause before deciding whether or not to roll back the Renewable Fuel Standard." He added that spills have become unacceptably routine.

Renewable Fuels Standard

Renewable Fuels Standard -- also known as Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) -- are policies designed by states to increase generation of electricity from renewable resources. These policies require or encourage electricity producers to supply a certain minimum share of their electricity from wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, and some types of hydroelectricity. Some include landfill gas, municipal solid waste, and tidal energy. There is a lot of variety within the state programs, some being more effective in promoting renewable sources than others. They also tend to target the kinds of renewable energy most appropriate for the region. The Southeast has tended to support land-fill gas and municipal solid waste projects, the Midwest wind, and the Southwest solar. 

In order to finance projects, many states provide a tradable mechanism known as Renewable Electricity Credits (RECs)  How this works is that entities that exceed state standards for renewable generation are able to sell or trade those credits to generators who are not able to meet the standard. Some states make a certain number of credits available for sale, which has helped developers. Detailed descriptions of State RPS programs are available from the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency.

National Policy

The US Information Energy Administration (IEA) reports that some states without an RPS have seen increases in renewable energy due to Federal programs and incentives. They note that several RPS proposals have advanced part way through the U.S. Congress in recent years, but have failed to create a national policy. For energy producers, the patch-work nature of rules and regulations that stretch across the country make doing the businesses of rebuilding our energy network time consuming and inefficient. The complexity of the regulatory environment continues to make investors wary of renewable energy projects. As prices for both wind and solar drop, a national policy would create a pathway to major growth in an industry that promises manufacturing and other benefits to American workers and consumers.  American's United for Change would like to see such a bill.