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February 28 2013

18:53

European Climate Official Urges Keystone XL Veto

Killing a 1,700-mile pipeline intensely opposed by the environmentally minded would send "a very, very interesting global signal,” Connie Hedegaard says.

March 07 2012

17:32

Canadian Official Defends Oil Sands

Alberta's premier says she is confident that the United States will ultimately approve the Keystone XL pipeline because it affords mutual benefits for both countries.
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February 03 2012

21:00

Warren Buffett Exposed: The Oracle of Omaha and the Tar Sands

On January 23, Bloomberg News reported Warren Buffett's Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF), owned by his lucrative holding company Berkshire Hathaway, stands to benefit greatly from President Barack Obama’s recent cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline

If built, TransCanada's Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline would carry tar sands crude, or bitumen (“dilbit”) from Alberta, B.C. down to Port Arthur, Texas, where it would be sold on the global export market

If not built, as revealed recently by DeSmogBlog, the grass is not necessarily greener on the other side, and could include increased levels of ecologically hazardous gas flaring in the Bakken Shale, or else many other pipeline routes moving the prized dilbit to crucial global markets.

Rail is among the most important infrastructure options for ensuring tar sands crude still moves to key global markets, and the industry is pursuing rail actively. But transporting tar sands crude via rail is in many ways a dirtier alternative to the KXL pipeline. “Railroads too present environmental issues. Moving crude on trains produces more global warming gases than a pipeline,” explained Bloomberg.

A key mover and shaker behind the push for more rail shipments is Warren Buffett, known by some as the “Oracle of Omaha” — of "Buffett Tax" fame — and the third richest man in the world, with a net worth of $39 billion. With or without Keystone XL, Warren Buffett stands to profit enormously from multiple aspects of the Alberta Tar Sands project. He also, importantly, maintains close ties with President Barack Obama.

read more

January 19 2012

20:47

State Department Readies an R.S.V.P.

House Republicans want Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to testify before a subcommittee on a decision to forgo a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. Aides say she will probably send a top expert.

January 18 2012

18:39

State Department Opposes Quick Action on Keystone XL

The State Department is expected to say that routing, environmental and safety concerns raised by the pipeline project are too complex to be decided by the deadline set by Congress.

November 30 2011

21:01

Republican Bill Demands a Quick Keystone XL Permit

New legislation constitutes a sharp rejoinder to the State Department's recent decision to delay a decision until after the 2012 elections.

November 09 2011

23:27

Keystone XL's Cousin Shuts Down Twice

The operator says no safety issue arose, but the interruptions in service were ill-timed for the company, which is seeking permission to build a related pipeline that has faced stiff opposition.

November 07 2011

18:45

Inspector General To Investigate Keystone XL Conflicts

NRDC's Switchboard blog reports that the Inspector General will investigate the conflicts of interest and incompetence surrounding the Keystone XL pipeline permitting process.

NRDC reports: 

One day after 12,000 protesters stood outside of the White House calling on President Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline, the Office of the Inspector General has announced an investigation into bias and conflicts of interest associated with the project’s permitting.  The review responded to a letter sent by in late October by Senator Bernie Sanders, Representative Steve Cohen and 11 other members of Congress.

Read the Inspector General's letter announcing the Keystone XL investigation [PDF]
  

Update: Here is a response from Bill McKibben about the State Department’s inspector general decision to conduct a “special review” of the department’s analysis of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline:

It’s good to see the administration beginning to listen to responsible lawmakers, and we look forward to the results of this inquiry about the warped environmental review process. But it’s important to understand that the process has always been the smaller of our objections. while we’ve been dismayed by the corrupt conduct of the state department, our real problem has from the start been the fact that these tar sands are the second largest pool of carbon on earth.

"Since the State Department didn’t even bother to study that global warming question, the only real answer is to send this back for a whole new review — or, better yet, for the President to simply back up his campaign promises and deny the permit outright.

“Everyone should know that this will only encourage people across America to step up the tar sands fight. We’re headed to Obama offices across the country, including his headquarters in Chicago and in all the swing states, with the same message: President Obama promised to fight for the climate and now without Congress in the way, he can actually do it."

October 26 2011

22:27

Lawmakers Seek Inquiry on Keystone XL Process

Members of Congress ask for a formal review of how the State Department assigned an environmental impact study to a company with business ties to TransCanada.

October 18 2011

21:57

36 Lawmakers Berate State Dept. on Pipeline

Lawmakers tell Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that a consulting firm with close ties to TransCanada should not have been assigned to study a pipeline's potential impact.

September 01 2011

09:51

Hillary Clinton's State Department Oil Services and the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline [VIDEO]

With over 700 people arrested so far in the Keystone XL tar sands action taking place at the Obama White House, and widespread distrust and criticism of the State Department’s final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), this is a critical moment in the fight against a disastrous proposal to build a tar sands pipeline between Alberta and oil refineries along the U.S. Gulf Coast. 

Given the scientific certainty that tar sands oil is a recklessly dirty form of energy - as well as fresh evidence from Oil Change International debunking the claims that increasing our dependence on Canadian oil would be helpful for U.S. national security - it should be a no brainer for the Obama administration to say no to TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline.

But powerful oil industry lobbying, as well as pressure from the Canadian government, seem to have deflated and cast aside this administration’s stated commitments to science-based decisionmaking. Rather than working to transition the nation to a clean energy future now, an Obama administration approval of Keystone XL would further solidify our dirty fossil fuel addiction.

To highlight the influence of oil industry lobbyists over Hillary Clinton’s State Department and its unscientific review of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline proposal, DeSmogBlog presents a video animation created by artist Mark Fiore, depicting the not-so-far-fetched “State Department Oil Services” led by Hillary Clinton:




Visit DeSmogBlog’s Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline Action Page for more information.

09:50

Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline Action Page

Below is a compilation of fact sheets, information resources and action items from environmental groups, governments and other groups surrounding the Keystone XL pipeline and the Canadian tar sands. Please contact us or comment below if you know of additional resources we should add to this page.

TarSandsAction.org - Coalition organizing the White House protest and a 10,000+ strong petition urging President Obama to say no to the Keystone XL pipeline.

Friends of the Earth's Keystone XL pipeline resource page, petition and report "Dirty Business: How TransCanada Pipelines bullies farmers, manipulates oil markets, threatens fresh water and skimps on safety in the United States."

NRDC's Stop Dirty Fuels: Tar Sands - Fact sheets about tar sands, Switchboard blogs on the Keystone XL pipeline, and a BioGems petition to stop the Keystone XL pipeline.

National Wildlife Federation's Keystone XL Pipeline page and Tar Sands page- numerous fact sheets on Keystone XL and tar sands.

Oil Change International's report "Exporting Energy Security: Keystone XL Exposed" debunking the claims that Canadian tar sands oil is good for U.S. national security.

Bold Nebraska's Keystone XL resource page and letter urging Secretary Clinton and Governor Heineman to deny TransCanada's permit request.

Stand With Randy - Nebraska farmer and landowner Randy Thompson's page opposing the Keystone XL pipeline.

Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman's letter urging President Obama and Hillary Clinton to reject TransCanada's Keystone XL permit.

energyNOW! interview with DOE Secretary Steven Chu about the Keystone XL.

Rainforest Action Network's tar sands page with reports and fact sheets on Keystone XL.

Greenpeace Canada's tar sands page and report "Dirty Oil: How the Tar Sands Are Fueling the Global Climate Crisis" [PDF]

Avaaz's petition against the Keystone XL pipeline.

DailyKos page with sample letters to the editor about the State Department's Keystone XL decision.

DirtyOilSands.org website about the Canadian tar sands.

Interfaith Religious Contingent Against Keystone XL Pipeline

Sojourners religious site with tons of content about Keystone XL and climate issues.

U.S. State Department page on the Keystone XL pipeline.

TransCanada description of its Keystone XL pipeline proposal.

Selected readings about the Keystone XL pipeline:

NASA scientist James Hansen's "Silence Is Deadly" [PDF] June 2011 piece about Keystone XL.

Bill McKibben: "Why I Got Arrested Over the Keystone XL Pipeline".

New York Times Editorial  urging President Obama to reject the Keystone XL proposal.

 

Los Angeles Times article exposing a 2009 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa showing early U.S. support for Keystone XL long before the appropriate agency review process.

The Tyee's 'War Over Oil Sands' series of reports.

Robert van Waarden's photo essay of the impacts of tar sands development on Canadian First Nations communities.

DeSmogBlog's ongoing coverage of the Keystone XL issue as well as our tar sands coverage.

Mark Fiore's "State Department Oil Services" animation commissioned by DeSmogBlog:

Please contact us or comment below if you know of additional resources that should be added to this page.

August 30 2011

03:17

New Infographic Shows how Keystone Pipelines are ‘Built to Spill’

TransCanada claims their pipelines are the safest in the continent. And the State Department seems inclined to agree having released their Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the Keystone XL pipeline last week. They find that the pipeline poses “no significant impacts” to the environment, and advise the project move forward.

So what about the 12 spills along the Keystone I line in its first year of operation? Since commencing operation in June of 2010, the Keystone I pipeline has suffered more spills than any other 1st year pipeline in U.S. history.

In addition to a nasty spill record, the proposed Keystone XL will cross one of the largest aquifers in the world – the Ogallala – which supplies drinking water to millions and provides 30% of the nation’s groundwater used for irrigation. Pipeline construction will also disrupt 20,782 acres, including 11,485 acres of native and modified grassland, rangeland and pastureland, and pipeline construction will threaten sensitive wildlife and aquatic species habitats.

According to the EPAcarbon emissions from tar sands crude are approximately 82% higher than the average crude refined in the U.S. Given the extremely toxic nature of tar sands bitumen and the fact that Keystone is TransCanada’s first wholly owned pipeline in the U.S., it seems reasonable to look to TransCanada’s performance with Keystone I for clues on how it would manage Keystone XL.

And the clues are telling.

For one, Keystone I is the youngest pipeline to have been considered an immediate threat to life, property and the environment by pipeline safety regulators.

This Keystone pipeline infographic below shows the spills documented in TransCanada’s publicly released safety records alongside the proposed route for Keystone XL, and indicates key risk areas near waterways and major metropolitan areas.

Check out the infographic below, and head over to the Huffington Post to read more. 

Update: The graphic has been corrected to fix errors in #5 and #6. Thanks to the commenters who caught them.

Built to Spill infographic

AttachmentSize Keystone-Infographic-REVISED-630.jpg332.46 KB

August 26 2011

06:19

Breaking: State Department Calls Keystone XL Environmental Impact "Limited," Ignoring Evidence

The State Department just released their Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. The 27-page document does not flag any significant environmental concerns. The EIS suggests that construction of the pipeline as proposed is preferable to alternatives considered, including: not building the pipeline, rerouting the proposed location, and transporting the oil through alternative means.

In typical agency beurocratic-speak, the main alternatives are described as such:

  • No Action Alternative – potential scenarios that could occur if the proposed Project is not built and operated;
  • System Alternatives − the use of other pipeline systems or other methods of providing Canadian crude oil to the Cushing tank farm and the Gulf Coast market;
  • Major Route Alternatives − other potential pipeline routes for transporting heavy crude oil from the U.S./Canada border to Cushing, Oklahoma and the Gulf Coast market.

None of the alternatives were considered by the State Department to be preferable to proposed construction.

The Department will have to conduct another assessment of whether the pipeline is in the “national interest”, as well as a 90-day public comment period, but the public hearings scheduled for the fall are unlikely to change the positive decision. Thus today's State Department report is widely considered the final say on approval. The only recourse now is President Obama's power to overrule that approval. People are now watching Obama's biggest test on climate and the environment before 2012 with bated breath.

TransCanada has already begun planning to start construction on the pipeline as early as 2012, and for a pipeline that TransCanada's President for Energy and Oil Pipelines Alexander J. Pourbaix calls "the safest oil pipeline built in the U.S", there are a lot of reasons to believe otherwise.

The State Department Environmental Assessment of the already-constructed Keystone I pipeline predicted a maximum of 1 spill approximately every 7 years. Similarly, TransCanada's projections suggest 11 significant spills over Keystone XL's pipeline's 50 year operational lifetime.
Transcanada’s Keystone I pipeline has already sprung 12 leaks in the past year alone, spilling nearly 30,000 gallons of bitumen crude. In May, EPA forced TransCanada to shut down the pipeline for several days until it met increased safety standards. Then, in June, the Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued a Corrective Action Order, stopping use of the pipeline until safety problems had been corrected.

Independent analysis performed by University of Nebraska professor Dr. John Stansbury argues that TransCanada's used faulty information to calculate safety assessments for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.
  • The “Keystone XL Worst-Case Spills Study found that rather than 11 significant spills, a more realistic assessment is 91 significant spills over the pipeline’s operational lifetime
  • Stansbury alleges that TransCanada ignored historical data that represents 23 percent of historical pipeline spills, and made the assumption that its pipeline would only half as many spills as other pipelines. 
  • According to Stansbury’s report, TransCanada's calculations use a 19-minute shut down time, but the company assumes that it will only take 11 minutes and 30 seconds to shut down the pipeline. Stansbury shows that a “response to a leak at a river crossing could conservatively take more than ten times longer” than TransCanada estimates. 
These inadequate estimations mean that worst-case spill volumes will likely be significantly larger than those estimated by TransCanada.

Finally, in the Supplemental Draft EIS (not the report issued today, which we are still reviewing), Keystone XL is expected to leak due to flooding and washout only once every 87,800 years. After July’s ExxonMobil Yellowstone spill, it seems outrageous to claim that flooding and washout will claim a pipeline once every 90,000 years. With climate change, there will be increased rainfall and extreme weather, and current models of erosion prediction will be inaccurate.

The Supplemental Draft EIS also expects one incident due to corrosion every 3,400 yearsTransCanada failed to take into account that tar sands pipelines are operated at higher temperatures and pressures, and that, because of its chemical makeup, it is well known that bitumen is more acidic than the conventional crude and more corrosive, with more abrasive agents in it. 

TransCanada's track record with Keystone I is poor, and it seems foolhardy to trust them with the drinking water for two million people, the health of hundreds of communities, and for numerous ecologically vulnerable regions.

As Amy Goodman writes, in architecture, a "keystone" is the stone at the top of an arch that holds it together. With it, the structure is strong, but without, the structure collapses. To our "keystone": Obama, we're waiting with breathless anticipation. 

July 21 2011

16:42

NY Times Editorial Urges Obama Administration To Reject Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline

The New York Times editorial today calls on the State Department and President Obama to reject the disastrous Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, which it correctly labels the "wrong pipeline for the wrong oil."

The NYT editors point to the environmental impacts of the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline from Alberta to the Texas Gulf Coast, noting the destruction it would cause to Canada's boreal forests, the threats to Midwest drinking water supplies from inevitable spills and accidents, and the climate impacts of supporting the extraction of the dirtiest oil on the planet.

Hillary Clinton's State Department is correctly called to account for its abysmal attempts at drafting an adequate Environmental Impact Statement, which the EPA has labeled "insufficient" both times it has reviewed the document.

In a clear nod to the intense lobbying efforts of the pipeline's proponents, the Times urges Clinton's State Department to judge "the pipeline on the merits, not because of politics or pressure from the Canadian government, big oil and the industry’s friends in Congress."

Read the rest of the Times' concise and necessary criticism of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline: "Wrong Pipeline, Wrong Assessment" at the Times' website.

June 02 2011

19:32

President Obama Must Say No To Dirty Energy's Wish List

Originally published at TomDispatch.

In our globalized world, old-fashioned geography is not supposed to count for much: mountain ranges, deep-water ports, railroad grades -- those seem so nineteenth century. The earth is flat, or so I remember somebody saying.

But those nostalgic for an earlier day, take heart. The Obama administration is making its biggest decisions yet on our energy future and those decisions are intimately tied to this continent’s geography. Remember those old maps from your high-school textbooks that showed each state and province’s prime economic activities? A sheaf of wheat for farm country? A little steel mill for manufacturing? These days in North America what you want to look for are the pickaxes that mean mining, and the derricks that stand for oil.

There’s a pickaxe in the Powder River Basin of Montana and Wyoming, one of the world’s richest deposits of coal. If we’re going to have any hope of slowing climate change, that coal -- and so all that future carbon dioxide -- needs to stay in the ground.  In precisely the way we hope Brazil guards the Amazon rainforest, that massive sponge for carbon dioxide absorption, we need to stand sentinel over all that coal.<!--break-->

Doing so, however, would cost someone some money.  At current prices the value of that coal may be in the trillions, and that kind of money creates immense pressure. Earlier this year, President Obama signed off on the project, opening a huge chunk of federal land to coal mining.  It holds an estimated 750 million tons worth of burnable coal. That’s the equivalent of opening 300 new coal-fired power plants. In other words, we’re talking about staggering amounts of new CO2 heading into the atmosphere to further heat the planet.

As Eric de Place of the Sightline Institute put it, “That’s more carbon pollution than all the energy -- from planes, factories, cars, power plants, etc. -- used in an entire year by all 44 nations in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean combined.”  Not what you’d expect from a president who came to office promising that his policies would cause the oceans to slow their rise. 

But if Obama has admittedly opened the mine gate, it's geography to the rescue. You still have to get that coal to market, and “market” in this case means Asia, where the demand for coal is growing fastest. The easiest and cheapest way to do that -- maybe the only way at current prices -- is to take it west to the Pacific where, at the moment, there’s no port capable of handling the huge increase in traffic it would represent.

And so a mighty struggle is beginning, with regional groups rising to the occasion.  Climate Solutions and other environmentalists of the northwest are moving to block port-expansion plans in Longview and Bellingham, Washington, as well as in Vancouver, British Columbia. Since there are only so many possible harbors that could accommodate the giant freighters needed to move the coal, this might prove a winnable battle, though the power of money that moves the White House is now being brought to bear on county commissions and state houses. Count on this: it will be a titanic fight.

Strike two against the Obama administration was the permission it granted early in the president’s term to build a pipeline into Minnesota and Wisconsin to handle oil pouring out of the tar sands of Alberta. (It came on the heels of a Bush administration decision to permit an earlier pipeline from those tar sands deposits through North Dakota to Oklahoma).  The vast region of boreal Canada where the tar sands are found is an even bigger carbon bomb than the Powder River coal.  By some calculations, the tar sands contain the equivalent of about 200 parts per million CO2 -- or roughly half the current atmospheric concentration. Put another way, if we burn it, there’s no way we can control climate change.

Fortunately, that sludge is stuck so far in the northern wilds of Canada that getting it to a refinery is no easy task.  It’s not even easy to get the equipment needed to do the mining to the extraction zone, a fact that noble activists in the northern Rockies are exploiting with a campaign to block the trucks hauling the giant gear north. (Exxon has been cutting trees along wild and scenic corridors just to widen the roads in the region, that’s how big their “megaloads” are.)

Unfortunately, the administration’s decision to permit that Minnesota pipeline has made the job of sending the tar sand sludge south considerably easier. And now the administration is getting ready to double down, with a strike three that would ensure forever Obama’s legacy as a full-on Carbon President.

The huge oil interests that control the tar sands aren’t content with a landlocked pipeline to the Midwest.  They want another, dubbed Keystone XL, that stretches from Canada straight to Texas and the Gulf of Mexico. It would take the bitumen from the tar sands and pipe it across the heart of America. Imagine a video game where your goal is to do the most environmental damage possible: to the Cree and their ancestral lands in Canada, to Nebraska farmers trying to guard the Ogallala aquifer that irrigates their land, and of course to the atmosphere.

But the process is apparently politically wired and in a beautifully bipartisan Washington way. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton must approve the plan for Keystone XL because it crosses our borders.  Last year, before she’d even looked at the relevant data, she said she was “inclined” to do so. And why not? I mean, the company spearheading the Keystone project, TransCanada, has helpfully hired her former deputy national campaign director as its principal lobbyist.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the political aisle, those oil barons the Koch Brothers and that fossil fuel front group the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are pushing for early approval.  Michigan Republican Congressman Fred Upton, chair of the House Energy Committee, is already demanding that the project be fast-tracked, with a final approval decision by November, on the grounds that it would create jobs. This despite the fact that even the project’s sponsors concede it won’t reduce gas prices.  In fact, as Jeremy Symons of the National Wildlife Federation pointed out in testimony to Congress last month, their own documents show that the pipeline will probably cause the price at the pump to rise across the Midwest.

When the smaller pipeline was approved in 2009, we got a taste of the arguments that the administration will use this time around, all masterpieces of legal obfuscation. Don’t delay the pipeline over mere carbon worries will be the essence of it. 

Global warming concerns, said Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg then, would be "best addressed in the context of the overall set of domestic policies that Canada and the United States will take to address their respective greenhouse gas emissions." In other words, let’s confine the environmental argument over the pipeline to questions like: How much oil will leak?  In the meantime, we’ll pretend to deal with climate change somewhere else.

It’s the kind of thinking that warms the hearts of establishments everywhere. Michael Levi, author of a Council on Foreign Relations study of the Canadian oil sands, told the Washington Post that, with the decision, “the Obama administration made clear that it's not going to go about its climate policy in a crude, blunt way." No, it’s going about it in a smooth and… oily way.

If we value the one planet we’ve got, it’s going to be up to the rest of us to be crude and blunt. And happily that planet is pitching in. The geography of this beautiful North American continent is on our side: it’s crude and blunt, full of mountains and canyons. Its weather runs to extremes. It’s no easy thing to build a pipeline across it, or to figure out how to run an endless parade of train cars to the Pacific.

Tough terrain aids the insurgent; it slows the powerful. Though we’re fighting a political campaign and not a military one, we need to take full advantage.

Originally published at TomDispatch.

May 18 2011

21:05

Hillary Clinton's State Department Sued Over Failure To Reveal Contacts With TransCanada Tar Sands Lobbyist

Friends of the Earth, Corporate Ethics International, and the Center for International Environmental Law just filed a lawsuit against the U.S. State Department and Hillary Clinton (Friends of the Earth v. State Department) over the agency's controversial handling of the Keystone XL pipeline proposal.

The suit follows an extensive effort by the environmental groups to seek information via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) about contacts between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Paul Elliott, a lobbyist for TransCanada Pipelines - the company seeking to build the disastrous Keystone XL pipeline to carry dirty tar sands crude from Alberta to Gulf Coast refineries in Texas. Secretary Clinton's State Department is mulling whether to grant a thumbs up or down to TransCanada’s request for a presidential permit to build and operate the 1,959-mile tar sands pipeline.

Elliott was the national deputy director of Hillary Clinton's presidential run, assisting her efforts to win support of delegates and strengthening her ties with influential Democratic governors to win endorsements.

In his current role as a registered lobbyist for TransCanada, Elliott would obviously be in a good position to reach out to Secretary Clinton's office to lobby for the Keystone XL pipeline. <!--break-->

Suspicions that such lobbying pressure had occurred were stoked by Secretary Clinton's inappropriate public statements in California last fall, where she told an audience that she was "inclined to" approve the Keystone XL project.

Many environmental groups called on Clinton to recuse herself from the Keystone XL pipeline decision, noting that her tentative nod of approval was extremely premature. The State Department had not yet completed its mandated environmental impact statement, nor reviewed the huge numbers of public comments about the merits and demerits of the Keystone XL project.

So how had Secretary Clinton reached her inclination to approve the pipeline without waiting on the due diligence of her State Department staff?

Whether or not Elliott did contact Secretary Clinton or her staff remains to be seen, largely because the State Department rejected the groups' December 2010 FOIA request seeking records of any contacts between Elliott and the State Department. Independent FOIA experts, as well as the environmental groups, contend that the State Department's denial of the FOIA request was illegitimate.

While the State Department did accept a subsequent FOIA request from Friends of the Earth in February, it failed to meet the deadline to respond.

“Why is the State Department refusing to release these communications?,” asked Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth. “This calls into question the agency’s decision to rush the review of the Keystone XL pipeline, despite its massive environmental risks and bipartisan opposition to it."

After exhausting all other options to get the State Department to come clean about its contacts with Elliott, the groups announced today that Earthjustice has filed suit on their behalf against the State Department and Hillary Clinton in her official capacity as Secretary of State.

“Clearly, TransCanada hired Mr. Elliott to take advantage of his previous service to Hillary Clinton,” said Kenny Bruno with Corporate Ethics International. “We think the public has a right to know in what ways TransCanada and Mr. Elliott have attempted to influence Secretary Clinton’s view of this controversial project.”

Read the complaint filed by Earthjustice [PDF] on behalf of the environmental groups.

February 19 2011

23:44

New Report: Keystone XL Pipeline Is Not Safe

TransCanada Corporation is facing another key hurdle in its efforts to obtain State Department approval for its proposed Keystone XL pipeline to deliver dirty tar sands oil from Northern Alberta to Texas refineries in the Gulf of Mexico.

On Friday, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Pipeline Safety Trust, the National Wildlife Federation and the Sierra Club jointly published a new report [pdf] which details the likelihood that there will be leaks and major oil spills into waterways along the pipeline's path.

The report explicitly states how tar sands oil is more corrosive than conventional oil and therefore is a much higher risk to pipeline systems. <!--break-->The report notes that it is:


…more acidic, thick, and sulfuric than conventional crude oil…contains fifteen to twenty times higher acid concentrations than conventional crudes and five to ten times as much sulfur as conventional crudes. It is up to seventy times more viscous than conventional crudes. The additional sulfur can lead to the weakening or embrittlement of pipelines.


Because of its damaging effects to pipeline systems, tar sands oil spills will be more frequent than with conventional oil and as such, more devastating to the health and livelihoods of residents, farms and communities:


Alberta’s hazardous liquid system had 218 spills greater than 26 gallons per 10,000 miles of pipeline caused by internal corrosion from 2002 to 2010, compared to 13.6 spills greater than 26 gallons per 10,000 miles of pipeline from internal corrosion reported in the United States…

U.S. residents like Randy Thompson, a Nebraska landowner whose ranch would be crossed by the Keystone XL pipeline, fear what may occur if this project is approved:


I just don’t understand why we’d put our aquifer at risk. If oil gets into the water, we’re done. You can’t drink oily water and you can’t irrigate crops with it.


In a teleconference, Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, director of the NRDC’s international program and the report's co-author notes that as:

...Canada delivers a greater and greater percentage of our oil, their corrosive products will take a greater and greater toll on our pipelines…

We need new safety standards in the United States that ensure our protection from raw tar sands oil in our pipelines.


Elizabeth McGowan over at Solve Climate is also covering this story and elaborates on Democrat efforts in the Senate to heighten pipeline safety.  Specifically, a recent measure proposed by Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) aims to:


…strengthen the authority of the Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) through fiscal year 2014 by requiring:

•    All local and state government agencies and their contractors to notify "one-call" notification centers before digging
•    Time limits on accident and leak notification by pipeline operators to local and state government officials and emergency responders
•    Pipeline operators to make information and inspections available to the public on the PHMSA’s Web site
•    Authorization for phased-in hiring of additional pipeline inspectors and pipeline safety support employees


While increased safety measures are vital and on the way, it is certain that this report delivers one more reason for the State Department to decline this dirty energy project which will only deepen the U.S. and Canada's dependence on fossil fuel energy.

February 01 2011

17:36

January 31 2011

09:02

Groups File Appeal Over State Department’s Refusal to Disclose Communications with Tar Sands Oil Lobbyist

 

Three watchdog groups filed an appeal today with the U.S. State Department over its refusal to release correspondence between the agency and a former high-ranking presidential campaign staffer for Hillary Clinton.  In his role as oil lobbyist, Paul Elliott is seeking Secretary of State Clinton’s approval for the controversial Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline that would bring 900,000 barrels of tar sands a day over 2,000 miles through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

The coalition, including Friends of the Earth, the Center for International Environmental Law, and Corporate Ethics International submitted a FOIA request in December [PDF] targeted at Elliott, now lead lobbyist for TransCanada, the company aiming to build the pipeline.  The request was rejected by the State Department, and Marcie Keever, legal director for Friends of the Earth, believes that the State Department did not have legitimate legal grounds to do so. 

For the groups, the failure of the State Department to comply with its responsibility under the Freedom of Information Act is worrying, and further calls into question Clinton’s capacity to remain impartial on the pipeline decision.

“By refusing to disclose any documents, we contend that the State Department is violating the Freedom of Information Act,” said Keever.  “We are hopeful that with this appeal the State Department will release communications between the oil lobbyist and Secretary Clinton and her staffers.  If the agency doesn’t, we will take it to court if necessary.”<!--break-->

The State Department’s rejection of the groups’ FOIA request was criticized by independent FOIA experts and, unless overturned, threatens to force the issue into the courts.

Damon Moglen of Friends of the Earth argues that “The State Department is making a mockery of President Obama’s pledges to end the influence of lobbyists and improve transparency in Washington. "President Obama's State of the Union iterated our right “to know when your elected officials are meeting with lobbyists," yet in this case, Obama's goal and the glaring reality of the situation seem to be at odds. 

TransCanada also faces heavy criticism for manipulation of landowners along the pipeline’s proposed route.  In South Dakota, for example, TransCanada has filed more than a dozen lawsuits to condemn land along the pipeline’s proposed route, even though the company has not received the federal permit required for construction.  In Oklahoma, a family is suing TransCanada to defend its property, claiming that the company’s attempt to use eminent domain is unlawful.

The mounting outrage from landowners and local resistance to the pipeline clearly demonstrates that the public has not received adequate consultation on the pipeline.  For people along the pipe's path, this is more than a simple approval, it's a question of public health and environmental safety.

In the coming weeks, Secretary Clinton is expected to decide whether to fast-track a final recommendation on the project (and she already publicly said she was “inclined” to do so), or order a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, which would facilitate a more rigorous review and provide more opportunity for public input.

These groups feel that, for the integrity of the process, and for the health and safety of communities, a supplemental EIS should be mandated.  

What will be the fate of this ill-fated pipeline?  To learn more information about the Keystone XL pipeline, head over to the Friends of the Earth website.  

Image Credit: ForestEthics
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