Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

American Burying Beetle May Stop Fast-Tracking of Keystone XL Pipeline

Energy

Center for Biological Diversity

The American burying beetle.

In a victory for the climate, public health and endangered species, the Fish and Wildlife Service has taken action that could interfere with Canadian oil corporation TransCanada’s plan for fast-tracked approval of its Keystone XL tar-sands oil pipeline.

According to documents obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity, the agency decided July 10 to disallow a University of Nebraska researcher from using his research permit to help TransCanada clear the way for Keystone XL by physically relocating the American burying beetle from its habitat.

In 2011, the agency allowed TransCanada to mow native prairie vegetation through Nebraska’s Sand Hills and allowed researcher Wyatt Hoback to trap and move the beetles situated in the path of the pipeline—even though, at the time, the pipeline had not yet received final approval and in fact never did. The Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth and Western Nebraska Resources Council challenged these actions in court, in part arguing that a permit for endangered species research should not be used to clear the path for destructive development. Documents newly obtained by the center show that as a result of this litigation, the agency now agrees.

“The job of the Fish and Wildlife Service is to ensure the survival and recovery of endangered species, not to expedite destructive development,” said Noah Greenwald, the Center’s endangered species director. “We’re glad to see the agency has seen the error of its ways and will no longer allow use of a research permit to clear the path of the Keystone XL pipeline.”

The decision could delay pipeline construction—if approved—even longer because beetles can only be trapped and moved in the spring and early summer, when they are active. If the permit for the project itself, which presumably would allow movement of the beetles, is not issued until later in 2013, TransCanada will have to wait until the following year to move the beetles and begin construction. The State Department on July 30 closed its public comment period for the scope of the environmental review of the Canada-to-Nebraska leg of the Keystone XL pipeline.

“If President Obama truly considers the impacts of doubling down on more climate-wrecking tar sands oil, he’ll have no choice but to reject Keystone XL,” said Marcie Keever, legal director at Friends of the Earth. “Keystone XL would be an environmental disaster not just for endangered species like the American burying beetle, but also for landowners and the public who could be left on the hook to clean up Big Oil’s mess from devastating spills and more unprecedented extreme weather caused by spiraling climate chaos.”

The research permit granted to Dr. Hoback, used for moving beetles last year, was given specifically for research on the “survival and enhancement” of endangered species. Dr. Hoback was granted a renewed permit this year, but in issuing it, the agency specifically stated: “Dr. Hoback’s revised permit does not allow trapping and removal of American burying beetles for the purpose of removing beetles from harm’s way of development projects.” In order to move the beetles from the pipeline path, TransCanada will need a permit for incidental take, which may only be granted as part of a “biological opinion” document assessing the impacts of the whole pipeline on endangered species.

“The Nebraska Sand Hills are the most important biologically intact focal area within the Great Plains, and to see the integrity degraded for a pipeline that had not even been granted a permit set me off,” said Buffalo Bruce McIntosh with Western Nebraska Resources Council. “If built, this pipeline will do exceedingly more harm than good.”

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline would carry up to 830,000 barrels of oil, strip-mined from Canada’s tar sands oil fields, across six states and hundreds of rivers and streams. It was supposedly rerouted last year to avoid Nebraska’s legendary Sand Hills and the Ogallala Aquifer, which is a source of drinking water for millions of Americans and a major source of water for agriculture. But the current proposal from TransCanada shows the pipeline will still cross both the Sand Hills and the aquifer. TransCanada’s existing Keystone I tar-sands pipeline has reportedly leaked 14 times since it went into operation in June 2010. Another tar-sands pipeline spilled more than a million gallons into the Kalamazoo River, which more than two years later has still not been cleaned up. 

Visit EcoWatch's KEYSTONE XL page for more related news on this topic.

 

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A pangolin at a rescue center in Cambodia. Rhett A. Butler / Mongabay

By Malavika Vyawahare

China has banned the trade and consumption of wild animals in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak that has claimed more than 2,700 lives and infected more than 81,000 people, most of them in China, according to the state-run Xinhua News Agency.

Read More
A man carries plastic shopping bags in Times Square on May 5, 2018 in New York City. Kena Betancur / VIEWpress / Corbis / Getty Images

Nearly one year after New York became the second state in the nation to pass a ban on grocery store plastic bags — the law is going into effect on Sunday.

Read More
Sponsored
White gold man-made diamond solitaire engagement ring. Clean Origin

While keeping track of the new trends in the diamond industry can be hard, it is still an essential task of any savvy consumer or industry observer. Whether you are looking to catch a deal on your next diamond purchase or researching the pros and cons of an investment within the diamond industry, keeping up with the trends is imperative.

Read More
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) (C) chants with housing and environmental advocates before a news conference to introduce legislation to transform public housing as part of her Green New Deal outside the U.S. Capitol Nov. 14, 2019 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) took to the floor of the House of Representatives yesterday to chide Republicans for not reading the Green New Deal, which she introduced over one year ago, as The Hill reported. She then read the entire 14-page document into the congressional record.

Read More
Anti Ivan Duque's demonstrator is seen holding a placard with the photos of social leader Alirio Sánchez Sánchez and the indigenous Hector Janer Latín, both killed in Cauca, Colombia during a protest against Ivan Duque visit in London which included a meeting about fracking, environmental issues, the peace process implementation, and questioning the risk that social leaders in Colombia face. Andres Pantoja / SOPA Images / LightRocket / Getty Images

Colombia was the most dangerous nation in 2019 to be an environmental activist and experts suspect that conditions will only get worse.

Read More