Tag Archive: Tar Sands

Sep 22 2015

Hillary Announces Opposition to Keystone XL Pipelime

Last week Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton put the White House on notice that she could not wait much longer to take a stand about building the Keystone XL pipeline. The wait is over. At an Iowa event Secretary Clinton let her view be known.

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Her fellow candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has opposed the pipeline since its inception, was “glad that Secretary Clinton finally has made a decision,” and welcomed “her opposition to the pipeline.”

While it’s disappointing she didn’t do this while she was Secretary of State, she did explain her reasons for opposing it now

“I was in a unique position as secretary of state at the start of this process, and not wanting to interfere with ongoing decision making that the President and Secretary (of State John) Kerry have to do in order to make whatever final decisions they need,” Clinton said. “So I thought this would be decided by now, and therefore I could tell you whether I agree or disagree, but it hasn’t been decided, and I feel now I’ve got a responsibility to you and voters who ask me about this.”

Considering the non-stop media coverage of Pope Francis’ arrival in Washington, DC, this will most likely be pretty much ignored by the news media.  

Feb 01 2014

KeystoneXL on Fast Track for Approval

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The Koch brothers must be thrilled. Late this afternoon, the US State Department released its environmental impact study on the Keystone XL pipeline that, if approved, will carry the dirtiest oil in the world from Canada, across the US heartland to the Gulf Coast where it will be sent to China and other foreign markets.

In the final review, the study concludes that the pipeline would have little environmental impact, and would likely have no significant effect on carbon emissions. This fits the criteria that President Barack Obama has said that he would need to approve the construction.

The State Department, in Friday’s report, essentially concluded that Keystone would have little material effect on greenhouse gas emissions and that Canada would continue to develop and ship tar sands crude with or without the pipeline. [..]

The review included models suggesting that transporting oil by rail would generate even more greenhouse gas emissions than a pipeline, and also discussed measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the pipeline. [..]

The campaign against Keystone XL has become a national movement over the last three years, with environmental activists, Nebraska landowners and hedge fund managers all coming out against the project. In 2012, Obama, under pressure from landowners concerned about underground water sources and sensitive prairie, rejected the first proposed route for the pipeline across Nebraska. [..]

The State Department had conducted two earlier environmental reviews of the project. Last March, it found that if Obama rejected the pipeline Alberta crude would go to market by rail or other pipelines. But it revisited the issue under criticism from the Environmental Protection Agency, which said the early reviews had not been broad enough.

There is one more report to be released on an investigation by the State Department Inspector General of allegations that that a contractor’s review was biased because of connections to TransCanada and the oil industry.

The accusations stem from the release of unredacted documents submitted to the State Department by Environmental Resources Management (ERM), the consultant hired to perform the environmental review. Those documents, released by Mother Jones in May, show that analysts who worked on the Keystone report had previously worked for TransCanada and “other energy companies poised to benefit from Keystone’s construction.” [..]

In July, Friends of the Earth and the Checks and Balances Project, another advocacy group, said they uncovered publicly available documents online that show TransCanada, ERM, and an ERM subsidiary have worked together at least since 2011 on a separate pipeline project in Alaska. Last week, Bloomberg Businessweek posted a 2010 document in which ERM lists TransCanada as a client.

If true, the department would have to conduct another study.

The battle to keep the grease in the ground is not over.

Sign the petition and tell President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry to Protect the Earth’s Future and Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Dec 17 2013

Hot Rails To Hell, Pipelines To Perdition

Do you live near a railroad line?  How about a pipeline?  You might want to check into your proximity to those things.

Because America is the new Saudi Arabia, soon to be the world’s number one oil producer, the infrastructure that used to carry our energy products around is straining to meet the demand created by the new production.  

This pressure is translating into pipeline accidents which are shockingly destructive.  There are on average 1.6 pipeline accidents a day in the US, and the rate of pipeline accidents in Canada has doubled in the past decade. There are also rail disasters, like the recent Lac Megantic rail tanker explosion which killed 47 people and devastated a small town and the recent explosion in rural Alabama when a train carrying 2.7 million gallons of North Dakota crude oil derailed and exploded, sending up 300 foot flames.

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Map of US Pipeline Accidents January 1, 2010 to March 29, 2013

Even pipeline regulators say they wouldn’t live near a pipeline:

A federal pipeline safety official admitted on camera recently that he made a point of ensuring his home wasn’t in the path of any pipelines before buying it, and that he wouldn’t advise anyone to build in the path of a pipeline. …

“Here is what I did when I bought my house – I looked on all the maps, I looked for all the well holes. I found there is nothing around me but dry holes and no pipelines. And it’s not because I’m afraid of pipelines, it’s not because I think something will happen. It’s because something could happen. … You’re always better off, if you have a choice….”

Energy giants need to get gas and chemicals to process their raw product to transport it to a refinery.  Since US demand for petroleum products has been in decline since 2005 they also want to transport the refined product to a port in order to reach a higher paying market, which is why energy giants like Exxon are presssuring Congress to lift the US export ban on oil and other energy products like natural gas. Naturally, the President Obama has installed a friend of the energy giants as Secretary of the Department of Energy who is in favor of enormous profits for greedy polluters exports of energy products.

Taken together with natural gas, the US is awash in domestic fossil fuels that are largely stranded in North America, and is now in a position to reconsider its scarcity-based energy policies.

Should the export ban be lifted, there will be even more pressure on the energy transportation infrastructure and, hence, more danger for Americans living near pipelines, rail lines and roads where there will be increased truck traffic.

Apr 01 2013

Tar Sands Oil Spilled In Arkansas

On Friday, a 20 inch pipeline carrying Canadian heavy crude oil ruptured in Arkansas flooding the town of Mayflower with 84,000 gallons of the world’s dirtiest oil. The pipeline was carrying Canadian Wabasca Heavy crude, a heavy bitumen crude diluted with lighter liquids to allow it to flow through pipelines. the oil is produced in the Athabasca region, where the oil sands are located.

According to Exxon, the Pegasus pipeline carries 90,000 barrels of oil per day from Pakota, Illinois, to Nederland, Texas. The proposed Keystone XL pipeline will carry 800,000 barrels per day from Canada the Gulf Coast refining hub. This is the second spill of Canadian oil in the past week. A tanker train derailed in Minnesota spilling 15,000 gallons of oil.

This has prompted critics of Keystone XL, to point out the dangers of the pipeline and urge the president to reject the permit. “This latest pipeline incident is a troubling reminder that oil companies still have not proven that they can safely transport Canadian tar sands oil across the United States without creating risks to our citizens and our environment,” said Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-MA), the ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee.

Chris Takkett at Treehugger explains what happens when a pipeline breaks:

I’m no engineer, but from what I understand, when a section of pipe ruptures, the quantity of oil that can spill is as large as the pipe is thick and long until you reach the nearest shutoff valve. It also depends on how fast the pipeline operators notice the spill, shut off the flow and close the leak.

At Crooks and Liars, Diane Sweet noted:

In 2009, Exxon modified the capacity of the Pegasus pipeline, increasing the capacity to transport Canadian tar sands oil by 50 percent, or about 30,000 barrels per day. In a 2012 report, Bloomberg News reported the pipeline daily capacity to be 96,000 barrels of oil per day.

Tar sands oil is the most toxic fossil fuel on the planet, that leaves in its wake scarred landscapes, a web of pipelines, and polluting refineries.

This morning on Democracy Now, Amy Goodman spoke with environmental activist Bill McKibben of 350.org about the spill.

The Sierra Club explains why this type of oil, diluted bitumen (dilbit), is different making it difficult to clean up:

Feb 27 2013

A Dispatch From The Committee To End The Future

Greetings fellow inhabitants of Earth.  We, the Committee to End the Future, a purposely shadowy global organization of extremely wealthy and powerful people wish to thank you for your cooperation in completing the final round of our “Great Game.”

For centuries we have played a series of rounds of the “Great Game,” accumulating resources by dominating governmental and economic structures, subjecting citizens of the various countries of Earth to a variety of schemes to divert the products and value of their labors to our use and to pauperize those not of our sort.

To cut to the chase, though, the reason for this communication is to warn our fellow inhabitants away from a very dangerous movement that could potentially disrupt our game and cause something of an annoying reset just as we are getting close to declaring a winner.  We have discovered to our dismay that a small but noisy group of citizen activists wish to rein in the emission of carbon and methane which are essential to both our economy and completion of the Game.

If these noisy, misguided activists are successful, we shall have to write off many Trillions of dollars worth of energy assets that are important as game pieces as well as means of game completion.

We hope that we can count on you, our fellow inhabitants to continue your demand for carbon and methane emitting energy sources which are essential, let us not forget, to your personal comfort and ease of living.  No matter what these activists say or do, please continue to ignore them.  Continue to listen to the politicians that we support and their long-term, incremental plans that will bring down carbon emissions so gradually that you will never notice it.

We are now very close to the end of the Game.  No game is complete without an end state.  In short, we need to know who the winners are.  At the end of this round of the Great Game we shall finally know, and in the tradition of the Egyptian Pharoahs that buried their fellow players alive at the end of their games, so shall we.  We believe that our fellow inhabitants will enjoy a final rest from the great toils required of all those who play the Game.

Thank you for your cooperation!

Feb 20 2013

Pres. Obama’s Big Oil host has history of war profiteering, discrimination (Updated/Action)

Who cares about the temper tantrums being thrown by the pampered media because they didn’t get to meet Tiger Woods?  The real story is that while 50,000 people were at the White House asking the president to address climate change by cracking down on the fossil fuel industry, he was spending the weekend with a guy who is the epitome of Big Oil and much much more.

No wonder he was keeping the destination secret before this trip.  Intended or not, it was a big F U to the people who had planned for months to travel to Washington to protest the critical cause of climate change.  Worse, there has been no response whatsoever to the tens of thousands of protesters who came to his house on Sunday, nor to the many many more who were at coordinating marches in cities across the country and untold numbers of people who were there with them in spirit.

Well maybe there was another reason why the identity of Obama’s host was kept secret in the weeks leading up to the trip. The Tiger Woods golf date captured a lot of media attention, but the real story, in my opinion, is Jim Crane, the man who owned the Floridian country club and resort, who hosted the president for the long weekend, and who has a long, sordid history.

Feb 28 2012

Setting the Stage for Keystone XL Approval

Is anyone surprised that the White House has given its blessing to Transcanada’s Keystone XL pipeline plan to build an portion of the oil pipeline from Oklahoma to Texas despite rejection of the company’s earlier application in January? After all the protests last year to stop the construction and the Republican congressional maneuvering to force the president’s decision, it certainly appears that the Republicans and the oil companies will win but that shouldn’t be a surprise considering this president’s penchant for siding with the ruling class against the best interests of the country’s needs. This project won’t create jobs or reduce the price of gas, not now or in the future:

“As the President made clear in January, we support the company’s interest in proceeding with this project, which will help address the bottleneck of oil in Cushing that has resulted in large part from increased domestic oil production, currently at an eight year high. Moving oil from the Midwest to the world-class, state-of-the-art refineries on the Gulf Coast will modernize our infrastructure, create jobs, and encourage American energy production,” Carney said in a statement. [..]

But if the argument for building Keystone is to generate new oil within the United States and bring down gas prices, TransCanada’s plans don’t deliver. In fact, environmental groups say, TransCanada’s plans for Keystone mean more domestic oil will head overseas and a potential spike in gas prices. [..]

Kim Huynh, speaking for Friends of the Earth, accused the president of trying to have it both ways by touting his commitment to clean energy “while simultaneously shilling for one of the dirtiest industries on Earth” by endorsing the pipeline’s construction.

“What the administration seems to be missing is that the southern segment of this pipeline would exacerbate air pollution in refinery communities along the Gulf Coast and threaten our heartland with costly spills — all for oil that likely won’t make it to Americans’ gas tanks,” Huynh said in a statement.

Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, director of the International Program at the National Resources Defense Council, wrote in blog post:

So what exactly has TransCanada proposed today? TransCanada announced that it has let the State Department know that the company will submit a new application for a presidential permit for the northern portion of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline from the border crossing in Montana to Steel City, Nebraska on the Kansas border where an already existing part of the pipeline starts. TransCanada would supplement this application with the proposed route through Nebraska after that has been determined in cooperation with Nebraska. But there is some question as to how long this would take since Nebraska does not currently have laws in place to do this assessment. TransCanada will then apply separately to the various federal and state permits for the southern portion of the pipeline from Cushing Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast.

Raw tar sands oil going from the Midwest to the Gulf for refining means serious pipeline safety issues for landowners and environmental justice impacts of tar sands refining. Concerns of Texas landowners over TransCanada’s high-handed attempts to take their land through eminent domain will all remain the same in the case of an Oklahoma to Texas tar sands pipeline.

And the southern route pipeline will still provide the main service to oil companies that Keystone XL would provide: it will divert tar sands from the Midwest to the Gulf, raising American oil prices and likely also gasoline prices. An Oklahoma to Texas tar sands pipeline will mean more tar sands converted to diesel and available for export overseas. It will mean less tar sands remaining in the US, even while Americans bear the risks of the pipeline.

Bill McKibben, who has led protests against Keystone XL, gave the following response to the news:

“Transcanada’s decision to build its pipe from Oklahoma to Texas is a nifty excuse to steal some land by eminent domain. It doesn’t increase tar sands mining because there’s still no pipe across the Canadian border, but it’s the usual ugly power grab and land grab by the fossil fuel industry — we’ll do what we can to stand by our allies in that arid and beautiful land.”

The plight of Texas land owners was highlighted in Brain Buetler’s Talking Points Memo:

Julia Trigg Crawford, 53, of Lamar County, TX faced similar pressure. On Friday, a judge voided a temporary restraining order she’d secured against TransCanada on the grounds that the company is threatening to build the pipeline across a portion of her 600 acre property that archaeological authorities say is teeming with Caddo nation artifacts. It also threatens a creek she uses to irrigate her land and wells her family uses for drinking water.

“I do not want my place to be a guinea pig on this,” she told my by telephone. Those practical concerns lay atop a more fundamental question of whether a for-profit company should be able to seize private land for profit.

“I’m looking out my window every hour,” Crawford said. “While they don’t have a permit to build anything, they have the right to start construction…. A foreign for profit pipeline was allowed to condemn my land without my being allowed to talk to a judge.” [..]

The result: protests in Paris, Texas against the pipeline, on Crawford’s behalf.

“You could check off 20 different kinds of boxes, politically, professionally, temperamentally,” Crawford said. “We had Occupiers, Tea Partiers. This is about rights as a landowner.”

A Nebraska landowner, Randy Thompson told TPM in the same article how he was harassed by Transcanada after he withdrew his permission to survey his farm land in 2007.

“Once I found out a little bit more about what was going on, I rescinded that permission,” Thompson told TPM by phone on Sunday. “[W]e did meet with them once, maybe a couple times. We told them, you don’t have a permit yet, so we absolutely do not want this thing on our property. So until you actually get a permit we have no reason to have any further discussion about this. They continually called me, like once a month or whenever they felt like it. Kept the pressure on us. Made us an offer, $9000. Whatever the offer was, we just don’t want the damn thing on our property.” [..]

“In July 2010, we got a written letter from TransCanada, they told us if you don’t accept this within 30 days, we’re going to immediately start eminent domain proceedings against you,” Thompson said. “They didn’t say anything about a permit. I tried to contact the Governor’s office. All I got back was a form letter talking about the pipeline.”

If the White House thought for even a nanosecond that this would blunt Republican criticism of Pres. Obama, they are as deluded as the Republicans who say this will reduce the price of gas:

House Speaker Boehner, R-Ohio, said he will continue to stress that the Obama administration is blocking construction of the entire pipeline, which would carry oil from the tar sands of western Canada to the Gulf Coast of Texas.

“The president is so far on the wrong side of the American people that he’s now praising the company’s decision to start going around him,” Boehner said in a statement.

“But he can’t have it both ways,” Boehner said. “If the president thinks this project is good for America, he knows how to make it happen right away. Until he does, he’s just standing in the way of getting it done.”

The only thing that completing the southern portion of the pipeline will do is ease the glut of oil that is being stored in the Midwest. It won’t lower the price of gas because that oil will be exported to the global market where it will be resold at a higher price. That will drive up prices in the Midwest where gas prices have been kept low because of the lack of the pipeline.

The reality is oil prices will continue to be artificially high by the saber rattling over Iran. The best and easiest way for the President to immediately lower gas prices is to stop the phony rhetoric of a war with Iran. Repeat it loud and often, Iran is not developing a nuclear weapon. That’ll work better than any environmentally unsafe pipeline.