Two updates in our ongoing series on North Dakota (which I like to call North Frackota in an ongoing, futile attempt to get that evocative phrase into the lexicon). The most recent entries in said series, in case you missed them: the massive growth of fracking in the western part of the state is straining its healthcare infrastructure, and the glut of oilmen producing that glut of oil is leading to an increase in inappropriate and illegal sexual behavior. North Frackota: It is now and has always been a paradise.™ (This is a motto I suggest the state adopt.)
Pickups and semis jam long stretches of two-lane highways. Backhoes claw the ground even in frozen January. Recreational vehicles occupy former farm fields next to row upon row of box-like modular living pods.
In Williston, the epicenter of the growth, the local hospital opened a new birthing center, workers are building a giant new rec center and students are overflowing in a school that once sat empty. Civic leaders have been approving building permits and hiring police and teachers and nearly every kind of government worker. …
Lines at restaurants and stores are often frustratingly long, with few workers willing to take service jobs when more lucrative oil industry work is available. Rents have skyrocketed. With mostly men flooding into town to work, women hesitate to go out alone at night. There are more bar fights. Young parents can't find day care for their kids.
In other words, the wealth and growth are unevenly spread and slow to flow outward. The first beneficiaries of the wealth are those industries that deal with flush workers directly. Like realtors.
Shemwell's troubles started in September 2011. After his year and a half as a welder at mining properties in Western Kentucky, [Armstrong Coal] management fired the 32-year-old for what supervisors deemed "excessive cell phone use" on the job -- an allegation Shemwell denied. Furthermore, Shemwell argued that the cell phone charge was merely a pretext for his firing. In subsequent court filings, he claimed the real reason he was canned was that he'd complained about safety problems at his worksite.
According to Shemwell's filings with the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), the federal agency responsible for protecting miners, Shemwell had refused to work in confined spaces where he'd been overcome by fumes, and he'd complained to a superior that the respirators provided to welders were inadequate. Shortly before Shemwell was fired, he and a colleague also refused to work on an excavator while it was in operation, according to filings.
Not long after Shemwell filed his discrimination complaint, MSHA officials tried to inspect the site where he'd been working. According to court documents, Armstrong chose to shut the site down rather than subject it to MSHA oversight, which management said would be too costly. Ten workers were laid off.
The government decided not to hear a discrimination complaint Shemwell filed, which should have ended things -- albeit unhappily for Shemwell. It didn't.
Midnight tonight marks the three-month anniversary of Hurricane Sandy making landfall in New Jersey. To celebrate, Congress finally cleared the aid package for victims of the storm. You'll forgive the East Coast if it doesn't send a thank-you note.
By a 62-to-36 vote, the Senate approved the measure, with 9 Republicans joining 53 Democrats to support it. The House recently passed the bill, 241 to 180, after initially refusing to act on it amid objections from fiscal conservatives over its size and its impact on the federal deficit.
The newly adopted aid package comes on top of nearly $10 billion that Congress approved this month to support the recovery efforts in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and other states that were battered by the hurricane in late October.
The money will provide aid to people whose homes were damaged or destroyed, as well as to business owners who had heavy losses. It will also pay for replenishing shorelines, repairing subway and commuter rail systems, fixing bridges and tunnels, and reimbursing local governments for emergency spending.
Obama pledged to sign the bill as soon as it gets to him.
Coal consumption in China grew more than 9% in 2011, continuing its upward trend for the 12th consecutive year, according to newly released international data. China's coal use grew by 325 million tons in 2011, accounting for 87% of the 374 million ton global increase in coal use.
China now uses 47 percent of the world's coal. It's an almost unfathomable figure.
In announcing his initiative, [Commission Chair Barry] Smitherman cited “recent shooting tragedies around the country”. In response to questions from StateImpact, he elaborated in an email: “At the Railroad Commission, many of our employees -- such as our field inspectors -- often work alone in remote, desolate areas of the state that can pose dangers. It is my position that Commission employees have the right to protect themselves.”
One Texan who agrees is Gary Painter, sheriff of Midland County where oil drilling is booming.
The sheriff said Railroad Commission inspectors can sometimes encounter resistance from crews on drilling rigs, crews he said that can be “on the edge” because of long hours and the use of drugs to stay sharp in spite of their fatigue.
I'm no expert, but it seems like maybe there are some other things that need to be fixed before we throw guns into the mix.
TransCanada contractors building the Keystone XL pipeline mistakenly planned their route and cleared several hundred feet of land through public property they had no right to work on, an Angelina County [Texas] official told FuelFix.
Officials noticed the mistake after protesters set up in trees in Angelina County to oppose work on the pipeline, which is intended to link the Texas coast with Canadian oil sands fields.
TransCanada cleared trees, soil and other foliage from a 50-foot wide strip of land owned by the county without any prior agreement for work there, Angelina County Attorney Ed Jones said.
“I would say it was a surprise to the county,” Jones said.
I would say so! "Hey, Jim, know why those backhoes are ripping up vegetation on that right-of-way?" "No, Tony, I sure don't. Seems like something we would have heard about, being county employees and all."
To the left, an image of Beijing's air taken last week when the pollution monitor on top of the U.S. Embassy measured a fairly low level of particulate pollution (29 parts per million per volume). To the right? The air yesterday, at a level of 462. If you chose the image at left, congratulations. Airlines in Beijing agree with your assessment.
Thick, off-the-scale smog shrouded eastern China for the second time in about two weeks Tuesday, forcing airlines to cancel flights because of poor visibility and prompting Beijing to temporarily shut factories and curtail fleets of government cars. ...
The U.S. Embassy reported an hourly peak level of PM2.5 -- tiny particulate matter that can penetrate deep into the lungs -- at 526 micrograms per cubic meter, or "beyond index," and more than 20 times higher than World Health Organization safety levels over a 24-hour period. …
Visibility was less than 100 meters (100 yards) in some areas of eastern China, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. More than 100 flights were canceled in the eastern city of Zhengzhou, 33 in Beijing, 20 in Qingdao and 13 in Jinan.
The quinoa debate has ravaged the internet these past few weeks -- kind of like how selfish Westerners with a taste for gluten-free grains are allegedly ravaging the livelihoods of South American farmers.
Joanna Blythman kicked off the brouhaha earlier this month with a piece for The Guardian contending that the fast-growing Western appetite for quinoa has priced the Peruvian and Bolivian poor out of the market for the delicious, protein-laden (and kind of sperm-resembling) grain. "[T]here's a ghastly irony when the Andean peasant's staple grain becomes too expensive at home because it has acquired hero product status among affluent foreigners preoccupied with personal health, animal welfare and reducing their carbon 'foodprint,'" she writes.