Roundup: Worst Oil Pipeline Spill

How much did oil company know about condition of pipeline? • Rural areas support Amtrak funding, polls say • The battle over GMO labeling gets expensive • NCAI elects new president • Making sausage in a news factory.

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Pipeline Company Hasn’t Released Inspection Report. The oil company that owns a pipeline that leaked more than 20,000 barrels of crude oil in North Dakota says it inspected the line just a couple of weeks before the leak was discovered, the Associated Press reports. But it has yet to share the findings of that inspection with state regulators.

Farmer Steve Jensen found the leak in the undergound pipeline September 29 in one of his wheat fields. The leak eventually affected an area the size of seven football fields, making it the largest pipeline spill on U.S. soil, according to Fox News and AP.

The pipeline, which runs about 35 miles through northwest North Dakota, is owned by Tesoro.

The company says it inspected the pipeline with a robotic device called a “smart pig” on September 10-11 and was awaiting results from the inspection when the leak occurred. The North Dakota Department of Health is seeking data from that inspection, but the oil company hasn’t turned over the information yet.

Other documents obtained by AP indicate that a state inspector had raised concerns about the pipeline months before the spill occurred.

State officials say the leak didn’t damage wildlife or water; environmentalists question this assessment.

The state waited nearly two weeks to tell the public about the spill. And there’s still not much coverage of the event nationally.

Rural Areas Support Amtrak Funding, Polls Say. Amtrak funding is popular in rural and conservative parts of the country, according to public opinion polls in four Republican-held congressional districts in Iowa, Kansas and Colorado. The polls were conducted on behalf of the union SMART/ UTU.

Majorities of voters in those districts want Amtrak funding to increase or stay the same, Politico reports:

“Especially interesting are the numbers for Rep. Tom Latham, the Iowa Republican and [transportation committee] chairman whose bill slashed Amtrak funding by one-third this summer. Only 20 percent of people in Latham’s district want to eliminate Amtrak funding, while 51 percent want the funding to stay the same and 22 percent want it to increase. Even among Republicans, only 33 percent want to cut funding to the nation’s passenger rail lines.”

The report on the poll, conducted by DFM Research, is available here.

Opponents of GMO Labeling Spend $17 Million on Washington Campaign. The Des Moines Register reports that major food and agribusiness companies have spent more than $17 million in Washington state to defeat rules that would require the labeling of foods containing genetically modified ingredients. Proponents of GMO labeling have spent only a third as much.

And, while we’re scanning the headlines at the Register, check out the paper’s coverage of events surrounding the World Food Prize

NCAI Elects New President. The National Congress of American Indians has elected a new president, Brian Cladoosby, who is chairman of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community in Washington. Other members of the new NCAI executive committee are the first vice president (Michael Finley, Chairman, Colville Tribes), recording secretary (Robert Shepard, Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate), treasurer (Dennis Welsh, Jr., tribal council member, Colorado River Indian Tribes).

Two-term NCAI President Jefferson Keel steps down today as the new officers take their two-year positions.

How to Make News. If you’ve ever wondered how a rural story can make national news, here’s a fascinating discussion of the efforts of a group of dairy farmers to spread the word about the awful cattle losses caused by the South Dakota blizzard.

Lorraine Lewandrowski, a New York dairy farmer (and Yonder correspondent), provides background to Farmshine.net on the tweets, posts, emails and phone calls that went into getting the South Dakota blizzard story picked up in national and international news outlets. It’s rare to see a communications effort dissected this way, and there are lessons here for anyone who cares about spreading the word about rural issues.

The storm’s damage to cattle ranches made big regional headlines for days before national press picked up on it. Urban foodies and celebrity chefs weren’t interested in the story, despite its obvious connection to the dinner table. The story found traction through informal networks of farmers, ranchers and their friends, through connections facilitated by social networking on Twitter, Facebook and blogs. Eventually, CNN, BBC, the Guardian, NPR, the New York Times and others covered the story. 

“The failure to cover this dire situation should be a lesson to us all,” Lewandrowski told Farmshine. “We need to cultivate and share media contacts and send our professional organization representatives into New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, and not so much the county fairs and regional events… We also need to explore the linkages between national and regional media. Why did this story keep circulating in South Dakota papers and the Billings Gazette, not making a jump in a big way into national media for so long?”

 

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