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100% Clean Energy Bill Launched by Senators to Phase Out Fossil Fuels by 2050

Ahead of the People's Climate March, Senators Jeff Merkley, Bernie Sanders and Ed Markey stood beside movement leaders to introduce legislation that will completely phase out fossil fuel use by 2050. The "100 by '50 Act" outlines a bold plan to support workers and to prioritize low-income communities while replacing oil, coal and gas with clean energy sources like wind and solar.

"100 is an important number," said 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben. "Instead of making changes around the margins, this bill would finally commit America to the wholesale energy transformation that technology has made possible and affordable, and that an eroding climate makes utterly essential. This bill won't pass Congress immediately—the fossil fuel industry will see to that—but it will change the debate in fundamental ways."

The "100 by '50 Act" would put a halt to new fossil fuel infrastructure projects like Keystone XL and the Dakota Access pipeline, and fracked gas pipelines facing opposition from tribes and landowners. Instead of new fossil fuel infrastructure, the bill invests hundreds of billions of dollars per year in clean energy—enough to create four million jobs. These large-scale clean energy investments prioritize black, brown and low-income communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis.

"While fossil fuel billionaires supporting Trump's administration put profits before people, we now have a legislative roadmap to phase out this dirty industry once and for all," said 350.org Executive Director May Boeve. "This bill deploys clean energy in communities that need it most and keeps fossil fuels in the ground. From Standing Rock to the Peoples Climate March, movement leaders have been calling for these solutions for years. This bill is proof that organizing works, and it's the beginning of an important conversation."

The issues covered by the bill reflect the demands of the climate movement, from Standing Rock to the fossil fuel divestment campaign, to the fight to keep fossil fuels in the ground. The content stands in bright contrast to Trump's vision of a more polluted America where fossil fuel billionaires profit at the public's expense. While this precedent setting bill is unlikely to pass during the Trump administration, similar bills are being considered at the state and local level in California, Massachusetts, New York and elsewhere across the country.

At a press conference held by Senators Merkley and Sanders, speakers included representatives from climate and environmental justice groups, progressive organizations and more. A crowd of supporters carried banners and signs reading "100% Clean Energy For All," and, "Keep Fossil Fuels In The Ground." The event was part of an ongoing week of action leading up to the People's Climate March on April 29, when thousands of people are converging in DC and around the country to march for jobs, justice and the climate.

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Trump Sued Over Keystone XL Pipeline

Environmental groups sued the Trump administration Thursday for approving the controversial Keystone XL pipeline despite its threats to air, water, wildlife and public health. Last Friday's pipeline approval also came without any public participation.

Those failures violate the National Environmental Policy Act and are the focus of today's lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Montana's Great Falls Division by the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, Natural Resources Defense Council and other organizations.

"This dirty pipeline is a loaded gun pointed at our climate and some of America's most vital water supplies and we won't let Trump pull the trigger," said Kierán Suckling, the Center for Biological Diversity's executive director. "This arrogant administration wants to ram this massive pipeline through with zero consideration of oil-spill risks or the immense harm Keystone will do to endangered wildlife. But Trump's alternative facts and contempt for our environment won't stand up in court."

Keystone XL would carry up to 35 million gallons of oil every day from Canada's tar sands—one of the dirtiest, most carbon-intensive energy sources in the world—to refineries in Texas. The 1,700-mile pipeline would cross rivers, streams and wetlands that are a source for drinking water for millions of people and provide habitat for at least 20 rare and endangered species, including whooping cranes, pallid sturgeons, interior least terns and piping plovers.

Since 1986, pipeline accidents have spilled an average of 76,000 barrels of oil and other substances per year or more than three million gallons. Federal officials estimate that Keystone XL will spill up to 100 times during its lifetime.

In approving the pipeline, the State Dept. relied on a 2014 environmental analysis completed by the Obama administration, which, despite the analysis being incomplete and deficient, ultimately rejected the Keystone XL pipeline for not being in the national interest and for having significant environmental impacts.

Even though the 2014 analysis grossly underestimated the pipeline's impacts on the rate of tar-sands development, it still found that the pipeline would pose significant threats to human health and the environment.

"For almost a decade, Americans have fought to stop the dirty Keystone XL pipeline from polluting our air and water," said Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth. "We cannot stand by and allow oil and gas companies to ruin our climate and pollute our land, water and sacred cultural sites. This litigation continues our resistance to Big Oil and Trump's war against our health and planet."

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3 Hurdles Trump Still Faces to Finalize Keystone XL Pipeline

The State Department and the White House greenlit permits to build the Keystone XL pipeline on Friday, with President Trump hailing the move as "a great day for American jobs."

State Department estimates indicate that the pipeline, which would transport more than 800,000 barrels of carbon-intensive Canadian tar sands oil per day, will only create 35 permanent jobs post-construction. The controversial pipeline still faces hurdles, including court challenges, intensified opposition from activists and approval from Nebraska's Public Service Commission to lay the pipeline in-state.

Jane Kleeb, the president of Bold Alliance and Nebraska Democrat Party chair, said that construction will likely be delayed from landowners in the state who are unhappy with TransCanada's use of eminent domain along the route. Bill Arnold, a professor of energy management at Rice University's Jones Graduate School of Business and ex-Shell, argues that: "The biggest challenge to the pipeline now is not political. It is economic. Whether TransCanada will go forward with the project depends on its medium- and long-term price forecast."

While we're talking about pipelines—officials confirmed Friday that a December crude spill in North Dakota 150 miles away from the Dakota Access Pipeline protest site was three times larger than initially estimated.

For a deeper dive:

Keystone: AP, Washington Post, New York Times, WSJ, Politico Pro, Reuters, InsideClimate News, FastCompany, ThinkProgress, EcoWatch, Fusion, Mother Jones Jobs: CNN Money, MarketWatch, Quartz, Grist

ND spill: AP, Huffington Post, EcoWatch. Commentary: LA Times, Scott Martelle op-ed, Baltimore Sun editorial

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for daily Hot News.

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Trump Approves Keystone XL Pipeline, Groups Vow 'The Fight Is Not Over'

Nearly a decade after it first applied for a presidential permit, TransCanada is getting the green light from the Trump administration for its $8 billion Keystone XL pipeline.

POLITICO reported Thursday that the U.S. State Department's undersecretary for political affairs, Tom Shannon, will approve by Monday the cross-border permit needed for the project to proceed.

Reuters reported an update Friday saying President Trump will announce the approval of the tar sands pipeline at the White House today with the CEO of TransCanada.

Sec. of State Rex Tillerson, former ExxonMobil CEO, recused himself from the Keystone decision since Exxon stands to profit from the pipeline.

The Keystone XL was blocked by President Obama two years ago because the pipeline would "not serve the national interests" of the United States.

But the November election changed everything. On Jan. 24, President Trump signed an executive order that invited TransCanada to reapply for a presidential permit. The company did so two days later.

Environmental groups and grassroots citizens have long opposed the pipeline, painting it as a symbol of the threat of climate change.

Once complete, the 1,200-mile pipeline will carry Alberta tar sands to processing and export facilities in the southern U.S.

"Keystone carries Canada's oil through an unnecessary pipeline likely made of foreign steel, all while polluting our heartland, treading on the rights of Indigenous people and private landowners," said Greenpeace USA climate campaign specialist Diana Best in reaction to today's development.

"It isn't what this country wants or needs. President Obama rejected the Keystone Pipeline because of public outcry," she said. "We cannot let the Trump administration undo the progress that people all over the country have made to ensure we avoid catastrophic climate change."

Best suggested that the president should shift his energy policy to prioritize renewables instead.

"Instead of pushing bogus claims about the potential of pipelines to create jobs, Trump should focus his efforts on the clean energy sector, the key to America's future growth," Best said. "Trump's energy plan is more of the same—full of giveaways to his fossil fuel cronies at a time when renewable energy is surging ahead. Renewable energy is not only the future, but the only just economy for today. Keystone, the Dakota Access Pipeline, and fossil fuel infrastructure projects like them will only make billionaires richer and make the rest of us suffer."

"We will resist these projects with our allies across the country and across borders, and we will continue to build the future the world wants to see," she concluded.

Greenpeace is asking the State Department to provide documentation about the justification for Tillerson's recusal and any waivers obtained or requested.

Although TransCanada might have secured the permit, POLITICO noted that the company still needs approval from the Nebraska Public Service Commission to build the pipeline through the state.

Additionally, Jane Kleeb, the president of Bold Alliance and Nebraska Democrat Party chair told the publication that construction will likely be delayed from landowners in the state who are unhappy with TransCanada's use of eminent domain along the route.

"Trump's decision will galvanize Americans, and further stiffen resistance to Trump's campaign to sacrifice our planet for Big Oil profits," Friends of the Earth President Erich Pica said. "The fight over Keystone XL is not over."

Greenpeace USA Executive Director Annie Leonard agreed. "It takes money to build a pipeline, and the opposition movement to stop fossil fuel projects like Keystone will do everything it can to deprive TransCanada of any new funding for this ill-fated and unnecessary pipeline," Leonard said.

"TransCanada may have a permit, but can they find the funding? Financial institutions should have learned by now that it's risky to hitch themselves to a project that already faces historic on-the-ground opposition from private landowners and Indigenous sovereign nations and could unlock a massive environmental, health and climate disaster. Keystone was stopped once before, and it will be stopped again."

Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune shared the same sentiment. "This project has already been defeated, and it will be once again. The project faces a long fight ahead in the states, but the fact remains that the American people do not want more fossil fuels, we do not want our private and public lands destroyed by a pipeline carrying the dirtiest fuel around, and we do not want our future and our children's future to continue be threatened by climate change."

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Next Steps in Battle Against Dakota Access and Keystone XL Pipelines

By Sarah Jaffe

This story is part of Sarah Jaffe's new series, Interviews for Resistance, in which she speaks with organizers, troublemakers and thinkers who are doing the hard work of fighting back against America's corporate and political powers.

Last week in Washington, DC, members of American Indian tribes and their supporters demonstrated against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The protest was led in part by members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, who have been battling the U.S. government for almost a year over the oil pipeline, which they say will contaminate their drinking water and has destroyed sacred sites in North Dakota.

In this edited interview, Jaffe speaks with Kandi Mossett of the Indigenous Environmental Network about the march last week and what's next in the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline, as well as other pipeline projects. (The full interview is available in the audio above and online at TruthOut.org). Mossett is a member of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, which has been active in the Standing Rock protests since August.

Sarah Jaffe: Last week, there was a march on Washington and an encampment. Can you tell us about that?

Kandi Mossett: The Native Nations Rise march came out of the Standing Rock camps and what was happening in North Dakota. When we started planning, we didn't know what was going to happen at the camp—it was prior to the forced removal. But we thought something bad might happen, so we wanted to make sure that we were following up with something positive and with the next steps. Then, the camps were raided and it was a really horrible.

When we were all together in DC last week it was like a family reunion. It really lifted up everyone's spirits because what we did at Standing Rock was much more than just a physical encampment. It has been ongoing for over 500 years. It is about sustainability and not continuing to take from the Earth without ever giving anything back.

We held a four-day event with a tepee encampment that included lobby visits, speaking, panels and performances. We had originally been expecting maybe 500 people to make it to DC for the march. When it was all said and done, there were at least 5,000 people at the march with us on Friday.

It was a great success and it will lead people to protest against all the other pipeline sites. The Dakota Access Pipeline encampment, all of that was a result of the success we had with Keystone XL. We now have Keystone XL back on because of Donald Trump, but people are going back to Keystone XL to continue to fight that.

There are already other camps. There is a camp in South Dakota near the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. There are people also going to the Two Rivers Camp in Texas to fight against the Trans-Pecos pipeline, which is also owned by Energy Transfer Partners.

To continue to fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline, a lot of people are going to Louisiana, where a camp is being set up against the Bayou Bridge pipeline. That one will connect to the Dakota Access Pipeline in Illinois so that the oil can continue to go down to Port Arthur, Texas, where it will be refined and shipped to foreign markets. It is all part of the same project. A lot of people didn't understand that until they went to DC and made the connection that we need to continue to fight.

In addition, we are arranging toxic tours and having people visit North Dakota to view the Bakken oil shale formation, so they can see where the oil is coming from and help push for more fracking bans and moratoriums.

We have the economy on our side. As we have been saying all along, the price of oil has been dropping. There is going to be a slight increase in 2017, but not what [Energy Transfer Partners] have been touting. For the last two years they have been telling oil industry folks, "Wait until 2017 when everything is going to be great again." We know that is not true.

But we still have to continue to fight back, because there is a massive new shale oil formation that was recently discovered in Texas. While it will take the pressure off of North Dakota, the problem is just going somewhere else. In the big picture, that doesn't help any of us. That is why I really want to go to the Two Rivers Camp in Texas.

We are going to build the Mní Wičóni Sustained Native Community, but we did have a delay with everything that happened. Community members there are really tired of the militarized police force and different non-Bureau of Indian Affairs officers now that are on the reservation because of cross-deputization and jurisdiction. The project is still fully funded and we're continuing to have educational forums about it. It is what we had always talked about, leaving something behind for the Standing Rock community, their children and future generations.

Sarah Jaffe: I want to go back to the forced removal from Standing Rock. A lot of people were closely paying attention around the election and then the election took everybody's attention away, so people don't really know the story of the removal. Could you give us a little bit more background?

Kandi Mossett: What happened was the state waged a really good campaign—for themselves, it wasn't good for us—to cause division between the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the people at the camps. They did that by blocking the bridge on Highway 1806, which caused casino revenue to drop significantly because a lot of people would go from Bismarck down to the Prairie Knights Casino. It also forced ambulances to go around to get up the hospital because they couldn't take Highway 1806 to Bismarck.

Because of the fight at Standing Rock a lot of the hidden racism that was always there in North Dakota—I grew up there, I always experienced it—became more blatant because of the actions that were being done in Bismarck to say, "Look, this is affecting you, too. Of all the people, you in Bismarck should care the most because you didn't want this either." But it pulled out the racism. School children were getting harassed and they actually had to have escorts follow them to their basketball games because whether or not the children said anything about the pipeline fight, they would get harassed by the other kids and their parents.

All of these things were causing further division amongst the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe community and people in the camp. There were a lot of really well-meaning, non-Native people that came to stay in the camp and there were a lot of different things that were happening in the camp … The camp became infiltrated with people that were working for the police, people that were working for the Dakota Access Pipeline and people that were working as private mercenaries. Even right now, there is a "terrorism" FBI task force that is basically harassing some of the water protectors. There are three of us that we know of for sure that are being investigated by the FBI Terrorism Taskforce.

But what the press really glommed onto was "These water protectors are polluting and destroying the river by being there." They took all of the attention away from the fact that there is an oil pipeline with carcinogenic materials running through it and said we were polluting the river. That caused further division that made it really hard for us because it was like, "How can the media twist or spin this anymore than they already were before?"

We were cleaning up for two or three weeks and then, when we were forcibly removed, we had to stop because they were like, "Get out of here." Then, they said, "We had to clean this. It is all their fault." It is like, "You forced us out at gunpoint." All of that led up to the police, fully geared up with rifles, machine guns and tanks, that came out against unarmed water protectors. They had made it sound like they were going to find weapons or something. But the Sheriff of Morton County, Kyle Kirchmeier, put out a report that said, "We did not find any weapons in the camp." We thought, "Of course you didn't! We have been saying this all along." On my on Facebook page I was teasing them saying, "Did they find my stash of snowballs?" because that was one of the things they complained about, that people threw snowballs at them with their machine guns pointed at us.

The whole point is that all of this still exists in this country. It really woke up the country. In fact, it woke up the world to see that the U.S. isn't just one almighty entity against the rest of the world but that we are broken down into factions within our own country. It is founded on a legacy of taking, pillaging of native lands for the gain of capitalism and colonization. Other countries were on board with us and were standing with Standing Rock.

How do we continue that fight on? It is to say: No more fossil fuel industry anywhere in the world. Do not allow the U.S. to be the bully it has been. It is really ridiculous that all of these other countries are on board with changing their energy systems and their transportation systems and yet, the U.S. keeps holding on to oil, gas, coal and uranium. It negatively affects other countries because of that need or that greed for the fossil fuel industry.

Sarah Jaffe: How can people keep up with these different camps and with the movement and be supportive?

Kandi Mossett: Even if people can't go to a camp they can support the defund campaign and the divestment campaign. We have DefundDAPL.org, which shows you the 17 banks that are directly funding these projects. No matter who people bank with, we are asking them to take their money out of big banks and put them into their local credit unions to bring power back to their communities and away from corporate interests.

Standing Rock showed people, "Oh, we do actually have a lot of power. We didn't realize it." We are encouraging people to fight against the Trump administration's push for fossil fuel resources. We want people to do that by having community gardens and local community education events on how to live more sustainably. If that means not having strawberries in December, depending on where you live, then so be it. Food sovereignty and transportation systems are all tied into it.

Another layer in addition to doing grassroots work is to get involved in politics. I know that is hard for some people because they hate it. I used to hate politics myself because I felt like politicians didn't represent me. They won't represent you unless you make your voice heard in your town, community and state.

In North Dakota we are battling against all of these ridiculous laws—for example, they are trying to ban wind projects for two years so they can bring back coal projects. I have to talk to my family and say, "Here is a letter for you. Just sign it." You have to do whatever it takes to get people involved and aware of the issues in your own communities. We have to make a political impact. If that is not good enough, then people should run for office if they want to make change.

Interviews for Resistance is a project of Sarah Jaffe, with assistance from Laura Feuillebois and support from the Nation Institute. It is also available as a podcast. Not to be reprinted without permission. Reposted with permission from our media associate BillMoyers.com.

Pipeline under construction in Alberta, Canada. Photo credit: Rblood / Flickr

3 Reasons Why Keystone XL Pipeline May Never Get Built

By James Wilt

Almost a full decade since first applying for a presidential permit, TransCanada looks set to finally receive go-ahead in the U.S. for its massive $8-billion Keystone XL pipeline.

But here's the thing: U.S. approval, while a great leap forward for TransCanada, doesn't guarantee the Keystone XL pipeline will ever be built.

New U.S. President Trump was elected with the explicit promise to get the 830,000 barrel per day pipeline from Alberta to Nebraska built, under the conditions that the U.S. would receive a "big, big chunk of the profits or even ownership rights" and it would be built with American steel; his administration has already flip-flopped on the latter pledge.

On Jan. 24, Trump signed an executive order, inviting TransCanada to reapply for a presidential permit, which the company did two days later. It's now in the hands of the State Department, which has to issue a verdict by the end of March.

Sounds like a slam dunk, right? Not so fast. Here are three key reasons why.

1. Economics

Even Enbridge CEO Al Monaco recently stated that Canada only needs two more export pipelines.

"If you look at the supply profile and you look at our expansion replacement capacity for Line 3 and one other pipeline, that should suffice based on the current supply outlook, out to at least mid-next decade," Monaco said on a fourth quarter earnings call last week.

Wood Mackenzie analyst Mark Oberstoetter seconded that: "There's not an evident need to get three or four pipelines built."

Add to that the rapidly declining long-term prospects in the tar sands.

Those include Exxon's writing off of 3.5 billion barrels in bitumen reserves, ConocoPhillips' cutting of 1.2 billion barrels in reserves and Shell's forecasting of global peak oil demand in 2021.

Just last week, Shell sold off almost all of its tar sands assets to Canadian Natural Resources Limited. This follows divestitures by Statoil and Total SA in recent years.

"There will be no more greenfield projects if the price of oil stays at what it is," said David Hughes, expert on unconventional fuels and former scientist at the Geological Survey of Canada.

Hughes adds that Western Canadian Select already sells at a discount of around $15/barrel due to transportation and quality discounts.

Pipeline companies thrive on long-term contracts with producers, with lower rates for longer terms (such as 10 or 20 years).

Such contracts are huge financial gambles, especially given uncertainty about oil prices. In a low oil price scenario, tar sands take a hit because of the high cost of production.

"The economic case is not there for the three pipelines," said Amin Asadollahi, lead on climate change mitigation for North America at the International Institute for Sustainable Development. "And should the massive expansion happen, I don't think the financial benefits for the sector … would be there."

2. Landowners

We've already seen what lawsuits and protests can do to proposed oil pipelines, including crippling Enbridge's Northern Gateway and seriously delaying Energy Transfer Partner's Dakota Access Pipeline.

Same goes for Keystone XL. Lawsuits have plagued the company for years. In 2015, more than 100 Nebraska landowners sued TransCanada over the proposed use of eminent domain; the company eventually withdrew from the case and its plans for eminent domain, but it appears such conflicts will reignite with the federal approval. Landowners have already started to meet to plot out how to resist the pipeline.

TransCanada requires a permit from Nebraska in order to proceed. Last week, two-thirds of Nebraska's senators signed a letter petitioning the state's Public Service Commission to okay the proposed route; the original route was altered in April 2012 due to public opposition.

Keith Stewart, climate and energy campaigner at Greenpeace Canada, said: "They'll probably get the federal approval, but state-level and other legal challenges will go ahead to try to stop it."

Adam Scott of Oil Change International noted that he expects a lot of resistance to the Keystone project on the ground in Nebraska, especially given that the project still doesn't have a legal route through the state.

There's also growing resistance from Indigenous people, especially in the wake of Standing Rock. Thousands of Indigenous people recently gathered in Washington, DC for a four-day protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

In 2014, the Cowboy Indian Alliance united potentially affected farmers and Indigenous people to protest against the Keystone XL project. The recently signed continent-wide Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion specifically identified Keystone XL as a proposed pipeline to be stopped.

3. Environment and Climate

Then there's the fight north of the border over greenhouse gas emissions and climate obligations.

The Canadian government's approvals of Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain and Enbridge's Line 3 added a bit more than one million barrels per day in potential capacity to the tar sands network.

Unless there are significant breakthroughs in technology to cut per-barrel emissions, those two pipelines alone will allow for tar sands production and associated greenhouse gases to hit Alberta's 100 megatonne (Mt) cap; Stewart said companies have been talking about the possibility of emissions-cutting technologies such as solvents since 2007, but they still haven't materialized in a commercial setting.

Unconventional fuels expert David Hughes has calculated that if the 100 Mt cap is reached and a single LNG export terminal is built, Canada will need to cut non-oil and gas emissions by 47 percent cut in order to meet the 2030 target, which will be impossible "barring an economic collapse."

Adding an additional 830,000 bpd of export potential via the Keystone XL—allowing for the kind of expansion hoped for by the National Energy Board and Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers—could result in the breaching of Alberta's emissions cap and the country's climate targets.

Stewart points to Chevron's recent submission to the Securities and Exchange Commission, which acknowledged the increasing likelihood of climate-related litigation as a related sign of looming danger for companies.

It's a rapidly growing trend. Climate-based litigations are grounding fossil fuel projects around the world. A lawsuit based on constitutional rights to a healthy environment filed on behalf of 21 children during the Obama administration threatens to bring a similar precedent to the U.S.

"We're actually looking at a variety of ways to put pressure—including possible legal challenges—on companies that are basing their business model on the failure of the Paris agreement," Stewart said. "If you're telling your investors, 'We'll make money because the world will not act on climate change' are you actually engaging politically to try to produce that outcome? Are you lobbying against climate policy?'"

Reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmog Canada.

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Trump Lied: Keystone XL Now Allowed to Be Built Using Imported Steel

Late Thursday evening, news broke that TransCanada, the company behind the formerly rejected Keystone XL pipeline, will not be required to use U.S. steel to construct the dirty tar sands pipeline from Alberta, Canada through the U.S. to refineries in the Houston area. This is in spite of the repeated pledges by President Trump—including at Tuesday's speech before a joint session of Congress—that it will be built with "American steel."

Earlier this week, TransCanada delayed its $15 billion Investor State Dispute Settlement suit under NAFTA over President Barack Obama's rejection of the pipeline until March 27, the same day that the final permitting decision for Keystone XL is due. It has been speculated that the lawsuit was suspended rather that dropped to ensure that TransCanada was not required to use U.S. steel despite Trump's public statements that it would be.

President Trump has sought to portray himself as some sort of master negotiator, but he clearly needs to spend more time in an apprenticeship. Just days ago, Trump pledged before the country and Congress that the Keystone XL pipeline that he was forcing on this country would be made with American steel, but instead, he was outmaneuvered by a foreign company that wants to use imported steel.

The only winner of this "deal" is TransCanada, which is using a $15 billion threat under NAFTA's deeply flawed corporate tribunal system to outmaneuver Trump and push a dirty and dangerous pipeline across our country.

TransCanada's success over Trump is what happens when you have an administration stacked with fossil fuel billionaires and a trade deal that enables corporate polluters to push their agenda at will. Keystone XL is a disaster waiting to happen for our economy, our health and our climate, which is why it was rejected and must remain so.

Pipe for Keystone XL has been sitting in this North Dakota field since 2011. Photo credit: Bret Clanton

Keystone XL Remains Empty Pipe Dream for America

By Joshua Axelrod

When he turned the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline from dead and gone into a reawakened zombie, President Trump claimed that his doing so would mean new construction jobs, steel manufacturing jobs and money for the U.S.

Before he was elected, he used the pipeline to show how he was going to enrich America, promising that we'd get 25 percent of TransCanada's profits. All in all, the basic message continues to be: This is a great deal for America. But what, actually, is the "deal?"

The short answer is: What deal?

The real deal here is a bad one. Just like the last time around, Keystone XL is not in our national interest. It would lock in decades of increased climate pollution driven by expanded tar sands production in Alberta. It would threaten our waterways and drinking water sources with the toxic legacy of a spill that can't be fully cleaned up. And it would serve Gulf Coast refineries who are exporting growing volumes of both refined products and crude oil to international markets. In other words, this is a pipeline that creates major environmental risks all to carry tar sands oil that America doesn't need and wouldn't use.

And what TransCanada has offered in "round three" doesn't improve on anything they've offered before, despite President Trump's bluster. Here's the rundown:

The application submitted by TransCanada to the State Department on Jan. 26, is basically the same application they submitted to the State Department back in 2012. The big change really comes down to what looks like the loss of the so-called "Bakken on-ramp" or Bakken Market Link project.

The Bakken on-ramp was added to the Keystone XL proposal in 2012 after outcry from U.S. oil producers forced TransCanada to add a "feeder" pipeline that could bring up to 100,000 barrels per day (bpd) of U.S. oil into the Keystone XL pipeline system in Montana. The Bakken Market Link addition allowed Keystone XL's advocates to build support for the project from the U.S. oil industry. Now, it looks like they're doing what they can to make that gift to U.S. producers disappear.

In 2012, TransCanada wrote in its application:

"The related Bakken Market Link Project will include the construction of 'on-ramp' facilities in Fallon County, Montana to allow Bakken crude oil to access the pipeline system for delivery to Steele City and then to the Gulf Coast."

Note the use of the word "will" in that sentence. This on-ramp pipeline was part of the plan, as in, they were going to build it and Bakken producers were the planned beneficiaries from the added pipeline capacity. But in 2017, their application says:

"Subject to commercial demand, the related Bakken Market Link Project would include the construction of 'on-ramp' facilities in Fallon County, Montana to allow Bakken crude oil to access the pipeline system for delivery to Steele City and then to the Gulf Coast."

But the market case for pipelines in North Dakota and Montana has deteriorated since Keystone XL was proposed in 2008—the region now has more pipeline capacity than production and more is on its way. According to the North Dakota Pipeline Authority, more than one million bpd of new pipeline capacity has been built since Keystone XL was first proposed, with more expected. Meanwhile, low oil prices have blunted once projected increases in Bakken oil production.

TransCanada's injection of uncertainty into their new Keystone XL application allows them to avoid a commitment they were previously willing to make. And it's likely they'll do so—as they may have a difficult time finding U.S. producers interested in signing long-term shipping contracts on Keystone XL without an easy way of getting their oil into the pipeline. In 2014, the key proponent of the Bakken on-ramp, Harold Hamm, said of Keystone XL, "It's not critical any longer… They just waited too long. The industry is very innovative and it finds other ways of doing it and other routes." If U.S. producers already admitted Keystone XL wasn't useful in 2014, you can bet it's even less useful to them now.

In the meantime, their new application is mum on President Trump's repeated demand that new pipelines be built from U.S. steel, his promise that the U.S. is going to get a big share of profits or his promise of tens of thousands of new construction jobs.

Then there's the strangely weak case TransCanada has submitted for why Keystone XL is in America's national interest. Last time around, TransCanada provided significant detail about the ways in which the pipeline fulfilled the State Department's criteria for making National Interest Determinations.

This time around, they've boiled their case down from 29 pages to seven bullet points. In sum, these points basically say that Keystone XL gives the U.S. access to more Canadian oil and allows Canada to get its oil to U.S. refineries more cheaply. What they don't mention is that these refineries—and the Gulf Coast region in general—are exporting more and more refined products and crude oil as U.S. demand weakens.

The same job and financial benefits that were highlighted the last time around are there and then there's the sweeping statement that approving Keystone XL will send a signal that large infrastructure projects can happen in America. These bullets obfuscate a few critical factors:

1. Keystone XL is, in part, about increasing the profits of Canadian tar sands producers (TransCanada talked a lot about this in 2012, but has since deleted that section).

2. Oil demand in the U.S. is slowing, meaning the long-term access to new oil reserves promised by TransCanada is a red herring—a majority of the oil processed by the refineries potentially served by Keystone XL is currently exported and that trend is growing (TransCanada is also mum on this topic in 2017, even though they acknowledged this reality in 2012).

As recently as his speech before Congress on Feb. 28 and his speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference on Feb. 24, President Trump has continued to claim that the Keystone XL pipeline, if approved, will be built from U.S. steel. This promise is empty for many reasons, the biggest being that TransCanada has already purchased most of the steel pipe it would use to build Keystone XL.

What's more, only 50 percent of that steel was produced in the U.S., meaning his promise would require TransCanada to re-purchase hundreds of miles of new pipe. This would dramatically increase the cost of the project, which in 2014 stood at $8 billion (and is likely higher today, given five years of inflation since TransCanada last figured its costs).

Then there's the jobs claim. President Trump can't seem to keep his numbers straight on this one, but we'll give him a pass on that fact this time around. When he signed the memo bringing Keystone XL back from the dead, he claimed 28,000 jobs. At the Conservative Political Action Conference he claimed 42,000. They're both big numbers that obscure the underlying facts. In terms of full time employment, the numbers are actually:

These are well established numbers and have been for years. To be generous, you could claim a higher number—the State Department found 10,400 seasonal jobs—but each of those jobs would last four to eight months and then end. While there's no question that there are benefits to these short-term positions, if President Trump's job creation promises amount to short-term contracts spread across multiple states over two or more years, the benefits to local workers may be minimal indeed.

The last time I posted on this subject, I concluded with this thought: everything that was wrong with Keystone XL when it was proposed in the past is still wrong today. It's an environmental disaster waiting to happen, a climate-wrecking project with no place in today's energy mix and it's not in America's national interest. There are easier, less contentious and less expensive ways to create jobs—jobs that will outlast the inevitable decline of our dependence on fossil fuels and the boom and bust cycle of the environmentally destructive oil industry.

That sounds about right. A "better deal" in terms of what President Trump has laid out would kill Keystone XL. And Americans are starting to catch on to the fact that the pipeline, no matter how you slice it, just isn't a project in our country's interest: Polls now show that a majority of Americans—up to 51 vs. 38 percent in some pollsdon't think the pipeline should be built. The raw deal TransCanada has offered up yet again isn't a salve for any of the challenges facing America's future energy needs, the need for stable employment in rural areas or the very real environmental impacts caused by global climate change.

Joshua Axelrod is a policy analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

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