Tag: tar sands oil

Desmog: Concerns Mount About 61-Year Old Enbridge Pipeline in the Great Lakes

Click here to read the article on Desmog

By Derek Leahy, Desmog Canada

March 6, 2014

Of the 30 million Canadians and Americans depending on the Great Lakes for water very few would guess there is an oil pipeline sitting in their drinking water supply. It is anyone’s guess if this 61-year old Enbridge pipeline, known as Line 5, is pumping bitumen from the Alberta oilsands through the Great Lakes.

U.S. pipeline regulations do not require Enbridge to make public if Line 5 is transporting bitumen. Enbridge says the pipeline carries light crude oil mainly from the Bakken shale in North Dakota. The pipeline begins in Superior, Wis., and cuts through Straits of Mackinac, where Lake Huron and Lake Michigan meet, in the U.S. to get to its end destination of Sarnia, Ont.

“(U.S.) Pipelines in general are considered a national security risk,” says Beth Wallace, a regional coordinator with the National Wildlife Federation based in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“So PHMSA is not willing to provide records of Line 5 that provide detailed information about the location, integrity or product transported,” Wallace told DeSmog Canada. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHSMA) oversees pipelines for the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The National Wildlife Federation conducted an underwater dive last year to investigate and film the condition of Line 5. The federation discovered some of the pipeline’s steel supports meant to keep Line 5 secured to the bottum of the Straits had broken. Other sections of the pipeline were covered with debris.

Line 5 To Transport Bitumen Soon, If Not Already

The National Wildlife Federation believes if Line 5 is not transporting bitumen now, it will be in the near future.

“If Enbridge is granted authority to increase capacity on the Alberta Clipper pipeline, there will be an incredible increase in the amount of heavy bitumen pushed into Superior, Wisconsin, where Line 5 begins,” Wallace says.

A U.S. decision on Enbridge’s Alberta Clipper is expected next year. Earlier this week, Enbridge announced its Line 3 pipeline will be replaced by a new pipeline with expanded capacity. Both pipelines ship oil and bitumen from Alberta to Superior, Wis.

Concerns of a Bitumen Spill in the Great Lakes

Residents of Michigan experienced the worst bitumen spill in U.S. history when Enbridge’s Line 6B pipeline ruptured, spilling more than three million liters of bitumen and oil into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River. Bitumen — the tar-like form of petroleum in oilsands —sinks in water, unlike conventional oil. Enbridge has dredged the Kalamazoo multiple times in an attempt to remove the bitumen from the river. The cleanup is still going on four years after the spill.

The environmental damage a bitumen spill can cause plus Enbridge’s spill record — estimated at eight hundred pipeline spills between 1999 and 2010 — has Canadians worried about a Line 5 rupture as well. Georgian Bay, Ontario’s most vibrant bay, makes up the eastern part of Lake Huron.

“We are very concerned about Line 5,” says Therese Trainor of the Manitoulin Area Stewardship Area Council in Manitoulin Island, Ont.

“Georgian Bay is one of the most unique ecosystems in the world. We have flora and fauna here you cannot find anywhere else. We could lose this in an oil spill,” Trainor told DeSmog Canada.

There is no land between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan to stop the Straits of Mackinac’sswift water currents from spreading an oil spill into either lake. The National Wildlife Federation estimates in its Sunken Hazard report that if Line 5 has a large oil spill it could reach Georgian Bay.

Condtions in Straits of Mackinac Make it a Terrible Place For A Oil Spill

“This (Straits of Mackinac) is a terrible place for a rupture,” says pipeline safety expert Richard Kuprewicz.

Kuprewicz, a pipeline safety expert with 40 years of experience in the energy sector, says pipeline ruptures are difficult enough to cleanup, but conditions in the Straits of Mackinac would make things much worse. Line 5 at its deepest is 90 metres underwater and the straits freeze over in the winter.

What emergency responders could do about a burst pipeline nearly 100 metres below in the either stormy or frozen straits is questionable.

“Pardon the expression, but cleaning up and containing a Line 5 rupture in the straits would be a crap shoot,” says Wallace of the National Wildlife Federation.

There are no reports of Line 5 rupturing in the Straits of Mackinac. The 76-centimeter (30-inch) wide pipeline splits into two smaller 50-centimeter (20-inch) wide pipelines with thicker pipe walls (2.5 cm) in the straits. An external coal-tar coating minimizes corrosion on the pipeline. Coal-tar coating has had “mixed success” in the past protecting pipelines, according to Kuprewicz.

“Just because a pipeline hasn’t leaked or ruptured in the past doesn’t mean it won’t in the future. The past does not predict the future,” Kuprewicz, president of research group Accufacts Inc.,  told DeSmog Canada.

Line 5 has ruptured on land, notably in 1999 at Crystal Falls, Mich., spilling 850,000 litres of oil and natural gas liquids.

Michigan Needs To Protect the Great Lakes Commons

Liz Kirkwood, executive director of the Michigan-based Great Lakes advocacy group FLOW (For Love of Water), argues Enbridge should be required to secure permission from the state of Michigan under the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act before the pipeline company can transport bitumen through the Straits of Mackinac.

“As a trustee of the Great Lakes, the state of Michigan is obligated to assess possible impairments to the public’s use of the Great Lakes and protect the lakes for the enjoyment of present and future generations,” Kirkwood says.

Michigan’s Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act requires companies to obtain state permits to build or modify structures in the Great Lakes. Line 5 was built in 1953. The Act came into effect in 1955.

TRANSCRIPTS: The Pipeline in the Straits: Learning About Line 5 with Enbridge in St. Ignace

Want more? Here are the transcripts of the clips from the February 5 Enbridge meeting with Mackinac County officials and the public regarding the expansion of the Line 5 oil pipeline that is, in part, submerged underwater at the Straits of Mackinac in the Great Lakes.


1. Enbridge says 5,500 barrels (231,000 gallons) of light crude oil could leak into the Great Lakes.

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One of our residents would like to know, if there is a, um, break, uh, leak, in that 3 minute period from a 20 inch line at 300 pounds per second, what are we looking at, how much oil or volume would be lost to the on site?
Um, you know, I’m going to be completely honest, we talked about how to address this question, and the bottom line is we can speculate all day on worst case scenarios, what I can tell you, and I’ve tried to show you are all of the different safety mechanisms we have in place to ensure that hopefully we don’t have any incidents, but if we do, we work with our Osrow, and the Coast Guard, and all these other places to ensure that we contain it as quickly as possible, and return it to, um, return it back to the state in which it was. And, there’s more questions, you know, related to , um, who is going to pay for it, and of course we do assume that responsibility, um. What materials do you have in the straits? We talked about that. We have stuff on both ends of the straits, with boom, and our people that live and work here. Um, this a an um, I found this kind of interesting: are you planning for the Madrid earthquake? I can tell you that, um, not necessarily Enbridge, nor osrow =, but i can tell you from my past life that the Madrid earthquake is practiced every year by the department of defense, so that’s a homeland security issue and they are dealing with it. (huh?–crowd.)
Simple math problem about the oil spill–crowd
Compensations to businesses would be the same to county and private residents.
Sorry, you didn’t exactly answer my question with quantity. And, surely you know how much is flowing through just like if i spill a 2 cup, uh pale of water i know how much spilled. so, if there was a breach, what would be the release, because you know the quantity right?
Blake: Well, ok, we’d call that a worst case discharge.
Repeat the question!
Jackie: the question is how much is oil is in the pipeline between the two places in which we can isolate it
After the two minute shutdown
There’s 3 minutes before you totally shut down, you said that earlier. So let’s take the worst scenario of 3 minutes of oil flowing at 100%. Like you said, that’s a simple math problem.
Yeah, that’s a simple math problem. Ok, uh, it’s uh, like, without the automatic shutoff system, it was like 15000 barrels, and then when we installed the automatic shutoff system, that cut it down to like 5,500 barrels, but it’s at a pressure, like i showed you, the pressure is like say 150 psi, or less, and i imagine if those valves shut, it’s going to be less, because they wouldn’t shut unless it was less. And we’ve talked about this, so, we have to give them a figure, and it’s on volume, so the very worst case, and it’s very unlikely, is 5,500 barrels. But, you know, one thing that was interesting, some of our engineers were saying, that the water pressure at the bottom of the straits is almost that much, so. not like we are actually going to open and it up and find out what happens, but there’s a good chance that there’s gonna be water going in at one point and holding the oil in. and the oil wants to float up, and it goes down like this. So I really doubt that even close to even a percentage of that would even leak in a scenario.

2. “Extremely conservative” estimate says 25 square miles could be covered.

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So, the first one, given the shutdown response stated, what is the volume of discharge during the time frame stated? That was answered right? Ok, what is the surface area that would result? 5,500 barrels? I’m sorry, I don’t have this exact calculation ready for you, but if anybody needs it, but if anybody needs the exact number, uh, predictive number, we can talk about it, but it’s substantial, very substantial, a figure, and I’m probably very low estimating it, 25 square miles, to figure something like that.

3. In the winter, “Mother Nature will dictate.”

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Next question: May Day, May Day May Day, it’s January 21, 2014, -18, -40 below wind chill, ice is 4 feet htick, oil leak alarms start sounding at 3 locations under the Straits of Mackinac. What are you, Enbridge, and the US Coast Guard going to do about it?
How soon will you have the critical response personal on site, and time to stop the leak. We’ve talked a lot about winter operations, and it should be very clear to everyone that it is a much more difficult type of approach. Now, from a response perspective, we have two ways to access oil under the ice. If it’s thick enough, we can walk out and start drilling holes to get to it. So if this oil spill of one of these 3 leaks that is proposed here, occurs near shore, then we’re going to go out from shore and start doing that. How quick can that happen? First boots on the ground, our first partner companyy is here in St. Ignace, Mackinac Environmental, that provides some assessment, then we start rolling personnel in. And equipment in. As we saw in my slide, we have a 6 hour mainframe model, and a 12 hour time frame model. Now, we need to put a lot of boots on the ground to do that, and to give you an idea of what i would conceive of an operation like that, we’re talking about 100’s of people having to be mobilized in 6-12 hours, so we’re prepared in our planning standards to achieve those kinds of concepts, but to answer the question, in the winter, mother nature will dictate, we need those kinds of resources, and it will complicate it that way, that’s the reality of it.

4. Question: Are there any plans to pipe tar sands through this pipeline?
Answer: “There are no plans to pump what’s known as heavy crude, and sometimes called tar sands, through that pipeline.”

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Are there any plans to pipe tar sands through this pipeline? As I said earlier, um, Line 5 is a light crude, um, pipeline, there are no plans to, um, pump what’s know as heavy crudes, and sometimes called tar sands through that pipeline. There are no plans to pump, um, heavy crude through Line 5.

5. Question: What procedure does Enbridge have to follow if they change their mind and want to start shipping tar sands?
Answer: “It’s complicated, let me come back to that.” She didn’t.

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If you decide at some point to change what you…to pipe tar sands oil through the straits, what procedure do you have to follow? I’m going to come back to that one because..it’s complicated. Let me come back to that one.
There was a question that she was asked that she said she would defer. I’d like to hear the answer to that question. “She’s ended answering the questions” She deferred that question, she said she would answer it!

6. Line 5 currently pipes low density crude oil and natural gas liquids in 10,000 barrel batches.

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Blake Olson – Enbridge Engineer: “Mixtures of petroleum, does that flow through this pipe? Well, It’s light density crude oil and natural gas liquids, that’s what flows through the pipe. Uh, they’re batched in like 10,000 barrel batches, and they have different names by who produced them and from where they came, but they are basically the lighter density oil. Line 5 is designed for piping that type of fluid. If we were to switch to heavy crude, we would have to change a lot of things on the pipeline, including all the pumps and whatnot. That’s all, I guess, I can explain, petroleum dense…light density oil and natural gas liquids, which is raw propane and butane.”

7. Most of the product comes from the Bakken Shale in North Dakota.

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Where does that product come from? Our light crude comes mostly from the Bakken.

8. All oil floats, but some oil floats better than other oil.

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The question here was: Does all oil float? Well, all the oil has, you know, a density less than water, so it should float. Uh, The, uh, light crude oil has lower density than the heavier crude oil service, and this is the light oil, so, uh, it floats better on line 5 than, it, uh, maybe on the heavier oil lines. But it all floats.

9. All questions that mention the Kalamazoo River spill were rejected.

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There were a lot of questions here about Kalamazoo. Line 5 and line 6 are two different lines that do different things I’m not going to get into discussing Kalamazoo here today. We’ve learned a lot from it. “It’s still not cleaned up” We’re in the process of finishing that.

10. Enbridge inspects for dents, cracks, and wall thickness. Line 5 under the Straits has no dents and good wall thickness.

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The monitoring efforts and inline inspection: the inline inspection tools in our sophisticated electronic vehicles move inside the pipe along with the oil, they obtain detailed measurements in the pipeline condition, they’re look at, these are three of the different types: they look at corrosion or wall thickness of the pipe, that’s how they can tell that the pipe is still the same thickness. They also look for dents in the pipe. And they look for, uh, cracks in the pipe. And the, uh, data, at the end of last year, the new data shows that the wall thickness is still almost an inch thick, and it also shows that there’s no dents on any of the straits.

11. In 2012, Enbridge documented hundreds of “abnormalities or cracked features” on Line 5.

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Based on Enbridge 2012 documents, hundreds of abnormalities or cracked features have been documented on line 5, and these abnormalities, they say, are similar to 6b which ruptured and caused that largest inland heavy sands spill. And uh, so, what, specific measures is Enbridge taking to remediate these abnormalities on the pipeline through the straits? Well, that’s what I was talking about, that;s what we’re doing; we beefed up the whole division that works on those, and we keep, just, and then, of course the straits piping, we’re running the tools, and we’re not finding any indications. So, uh, it’s because, that’s the thickest pipe we have in our whole system in all of North America. They just over-designed the whole straits crossing, that special seamless pipe.

12. “They don’t build it like this anymore.”

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Hello, thank you for coming. Ok, Enbridge, uh, strives for a safe delivery of liquid petroleum, and transport. The seamless steel pipe is a very robust design, it’s, you, we really have to give credit to the engineers that designed it, it’s really built to last. It’s really one of those stories where “they don’t build it like this anymore”. The, uh, pipeline is nearly 1 inch thick of steel, the two 20-inch lines.

13. “The seamless pipeline under the straits is in fact seamless.”

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Um, there’s a question about seams, the pipeline, the seamless pipeline under the straits is in fact seamless.

14. The pipeline is welded every 40 feet. The seamlessness of the pipeline is referring to the side-seam.

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Ok, just a clarification probably: how is a pipeline 5 miles long created without any seams. And, as you can see on the pipeline, there’s a different process to make a seamless pipe than there is to make a regular piece of pipeline. A regular piece of pipeline you take a flat piece of metal, it get’s rolled and folded, it gets welded, kind of like your pantleg, you’ve got a seam going down your pant leg, and that’s the side seam. As far as that piece of pipe it’s more continuous, there’s a whole different process that produces a seamless pipe. Now, there are joints in the pipe, so to be clear on that, the pipe did come out in 40 foot sections, so they are welded every 40 feet along there, there’s a butt welded to a joint, but there’s not a seam going all the way down there.

15. “There were no regulations that had to be met when that line was built,” but Enbridge looked it over in 2004 and concluded that Line 5 to par.

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A question that is a 2 part one: if teh pipeline were to be installed today, how would it differ from the way it was designed originally? Would it be done differently to meet design requirements? For example would a double walled pipe be required?
Just a little history, I used to work for the Minnesota office of pipeline safety, so I was trained with PHMSA, and so I got a pretty good background on the requirements. This pipeline going across the straits was built before PHMSA existed, so there were no regulations that had to be met when that pipeline was built. Now that said, Enbridge went back in 2004, went back through all the orignial design calculations just to double check how it was built and if it was still built to an acceptable standard today, and it was far in excess of what PHMSA requires.

16. People got angry that Enbridge didn’t answer all their questions at a public meeting about Line 5.

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Um, we’ve exceeded the time that the commission has allowed us, we hope we’ve answered your questions. (Audience angry yelling) I realize that. I’m sorry, this is going to end, if you want to have your question answered after this session by Enbridge employees, uh…we could go on for hours but uh, this is what was sessioned…(audience yelling)

Require Cumulative Environmental Impact Statement for Keystone XL and Alberta Clipper Tar Sands Oil Pipelines

FLOW, along with a myriad of policy and environment groups throughout the Midwest led by Sierra Club, signed this coalition letter to Department of State Secretary John Kerry. The letter requests that the Department of State consider developing a supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) for the Keystone XL pipeline that also accounts for the Alberta Clipper pipeline for the purpose of analyzing the “cumulative climate impacts” of both proposed tar sands oil routes. It got some recent news play via Bloomberg, which identifies that even if the petition letter to Department of State Secretary John Kerry was rejected, it “could be the foundation for a legal challenge.” (You can also read the full text of the Bloomberg article at the bottom of this post.)

In a nutshell: it is insufficient to evaluate the climate impacts of each of these pipelines independently through separate EISs, and we urge the Department of State to develop an SEIS for the Keystone XL pipeline that examines the consequences of both pipelines’ combined climate impacts before reaching a decision on either pipeline proposal.

Why we care: FLOW believes that legally requiring the consideration of both pipelines’ cumulative climate impact presents an opportunity to account for the potential risks and impacts that these pipelines pose to the Great Lakes. As these lakes are protected as a public commons and public trust, it is the duty of the Department of State to ensure that the proposed pipelines will not impair the Great Lakes with the destructive climate impacts they will surely create.

The letter argues that the Department of State’s Keystone XL Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statements (DSEIS) downplays the pipeline’s connection to the larger climate impacts of a fast-growing tar sands oil industry. The DSEIS posits that the tar sands industry would seek ways to increase oil development capacity even without the Keystone XL pipeline and will thus have the same, inevitable climate impacts no matter what. However, the Department of State announced that it will also consider a Presidential Permit for the Alberta Clipper tar sands oil pipeline expansion project. This proposal would contribute to a greater increase in tar sands oil development than that which is considered in the Keystone XL SDEIS. Therefore it is critical for the Department of State to consider the climate impacts of the Keystone XL within the context of an even greater increase in greenhouse gas emissions as a consequence of the proposed Alberta Clipper pipeline.

To summarize the points and legal analyses of the letter:

  • The National Environmental Policy Act requires an analysis of the cumulative effects of reasonably foreseeable projects,
  • the Keystone XL DESIS fails to consider the Alberta Clipper expansion,
  • the Department of State must evaluate the cumulative impacts of Alberta Clipper and other proposals in the Keystone XL EIS,
  • new information shows that Keystone XL will directly contribute to tar sands oil expansion and increased global carbon pollution,
  • new information shows that rail cannot replace Keystone XL and other tar sands pipelines,
  • tar sands pipelines are inadequately regulated and unsafe, and TransCanada has demonstrated a dismal safety record, and
  • there are demonstrated contractor conflicts of interest and failure by the Department of State to ensure a thorough and unbiased analysis, which may invalidate findings of the DEIS.

FLOW applauds the Sierra Club for leading the way on this petition, and continues to engage with this coalition and through our own work to protect the Great Lakes and all our common waters from the risks of climate change and extreme energy development.

In addition to supporting this request for a supplemental environmental impact statement, FLOW is specifically interested in requiring that a primary goal of tar sands development be the protection of the Great Lakes. Haphazard tar sands oil development threatens devastating  effects on the water of the Great Lakes as well as its people, businesses, ecosystem, and economy.  The Great Lakes are irreplaceable and undue risks or overwhelming potential harms, such as these proposed tar sands pipeline expansions, are unacceptable and do not comport with the rights of the public under the public trust principles that protect the Great Lakes.

Follow our work on the “nexus” between water, food, energy, and climate change issues hereRead the whole letter here. Read the full Bloomberg article below or at this link.

Keystone Foes Say Two Pipelines Are Worse Than One

By: Mark Drajem, Bloomberg News

January 30, 2014

Opponents of Keystone XL now want to block its construction by showing that two oil pipelines from Canada to the U.S. are worse than one.

The Sierra Club said TransCanada Corp.’s (TRP) Keystone and the proposed expansion of Enbridge Inc.’s (ENB) Alberta Clipper should be reviewed together to account for how the combination would contribute to climate change. The San Francisco-based environmental group filed a petition today with 15 other groups, asking the U.S. State Department to revise its Keystone review.

“If you look at each project in isolation, it doesn’t present the full picture,” Doug Hayes, the Sierra Club lawyer who drafted the petition to Secretary of State John Kerry, said in an interview. “They need to look at the two projects together to see if there will be a climate impact.”

Accepting the petition could lead to further delays in the U.S. review of the Keystone application, which is already in its sixth year. Even if the State Department rejects the Sierra Club’s argument, the petition could be the foundation for a legal challenge, said Ethan Strell, associate director of Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University in New York.

TransCanada, based in Calgary, said environmentalists will never be happy with the State Department review, which has generated thousands of pages of analysis.

More ‘Ridiculousness’

“This is more of the ridiculousness from the activists who are trying to come up with anyway to” block Keystone, said Shawn Howard, a company spokesman. “At what point does this stop? At some point the process needs to come to a conclusion.”

The Sierra Club said the State Department has to account for its authority over oil sands development, because the two pipelines combined could carry almost 1.3 million barrels a day. By considering each application separately, it’s not taking into account the full impact, according to a copy of a petition to the government provided to Bloomberg.

The State Department reviews permit applications for pipelines that cross international borders. President Barack Obama pledged in June to approve Keystone only if it wouldn’t “significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.” Enbridge is seeking to expand its Clipper pipeline to carry more oil than is planned for Keystone.

Scientists say carbon-dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels such as oil and coal contribute to global warming. Environmental activists say Keystone and the Alberta Clipper would lead to greater production of Canada’s oil sands, which are more carbon intensive than traditional crude.

Alberta Crude

A draft State Department report in March reached the opposite conclusion about Keystone. It said other pipelines or more rail transit would be developed to get the oil out to refineries even without the proposed $5.4 billion Keystone project, which would link Alberta crude to refineries along theGulf of Mexico.

Enbridge’s project runs from Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin.

If the rejection of one pipeline would lead to greater use of the other, then the projects should be considered together, Hayes said.

Columbia University’s Strell said the Sierra Club argument has merit and could be the basis for a lawsuit under the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA.

‘Cumulative Impacts’

Under the law, “you would have to consider the cumulative impacts,” Strell said. “Certainly, it’s a very common challenge under NEPA.”

Environmental groups separately have been pressing for the final State Department analysis to account for limits on another transport option, rail. If it’s not feasible to move the expanding quantities of oil using rail, the pipeline would become the culprit in worsening climate change, they said in a meeting last month with State Department officials.

New regulations proposed by transportation safety investigators in the U.S. and Canada last week after a spate of oil-train accidents could limit the ability of rail to haul more oil.

TransCanada filed its initial application for Keystone XL, which would carry 830,000 barrels per day, in 2008. Calgary-based Enbridge applied in November 2012 to add pumps and valves to a portion of its Alberta Clipper to increase capacity to 880,000 barrels a day from 450,000 barrels.

“The Alberta Clipper expansion is a very different project from Keystone XL, involving increasing the horsepower on an existing pipeline (Line 67) within a well-established right of way, with no new pipeline construction or ground disturbance,” Larry Springer, an Enbridge spokesman, said in an e-mail.

The State Department is working on the environmental reviews of each application. Once those are complete, the Obama administration must decide if each is in the national interest.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mark Drajem in Washington at mdrajem@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jon Morgan at jmorgan97@bloomberg.net