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Senate Should Not Circumvent Keystone XL Pipeline Process

On Friday we learned that a lot of Republican U.S. senators and a smattering of Democrats are once again trying to make an end run around a legitimate process to assess the impacts of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, in favor of moving legislation authorizing its immediate construction.

While the political process in Washington, D.C. has come to give a lot of us pause, the good news is, it only furthers the resolve of tens of thousands of Americans to work harder to make their voices heard.

Reject + Protect. Photo credit: 350.org

Recently we saw on the National Mall thousands of Americans—including Nebraskan landowners standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Native chiefs—calling on the president to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline and protect our land, water, public health and climate.

So it is particularly painful to see some members of Congress once again trying to circumvent a legitimate process to push approval of Keystone XL—a pipeline that would take some of the world's dirtiest oil from Canada, through the heart of America, to the Gulf Coast and then off to overseas markets.

It doesn't matter that this pipeline will create almost no permanent jobs and only several thousand construction jobs, or that last year the Wall Street Journal reported that we, the U.S., is about to become the largest producer of oil and gas on the planet, overtaking Russia. It doesn't matter to these U.S. senators that our dependency on foreign oil has declined sharply.

This Senate amendment coming to a vote, sponsored by Sen. Hoeven (R-ND) and Sen. Landrieu (D-LA), would strip the president of his authority to decide whether or not the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline should go forward. Just like in 2012, a blatant political play is pushing the Senate to trump a democratic process in Nebraska that has yet to determine a route through that state.

You might wonder why after all this time we don't have a legitimate route through Nebraska. It is because the tar sands industry thought they were above the law. Turns out that was not the case. A Nebraska district judge found that the route was put in place through an unconstitutional process and it is back to the drawing board for Keystone XL.

It makes sense that the State Department decided to put the Keystone XL decision on hold until we have a route through Nebraska.

But it is no surprise that Keystone XL's supporters in the Senate are trying to push through an approval. It is Big Oil versus the Nebraska farmer and the industry can't believe that it is not getting its way after spending tens of millions of dollars in political donations in an effort to have things go their way.

Instead, the courts and the administration are listening to the ranchers and farmers who have been tending their land for generations. People like Randy Thompson who have built alliances across political lines to say no to a dirty tar sands pipeline crossing their ranch lands. They know a tar sands spill into the Ogallala Aquifer would ruin their lands and their livelihoods and poison their families.

These landowners have legitimate concerns that deserve to be heard. The Keystone XL pipeline would take tar sands through some of the most sensitive regions of the Ogallala Aquifer. And we've learned that tar sands crude is particularly damaging when it spills. After nearly four years and a billion dollars in clean up costs, large portions of the Kalamazoo River in Michigan is still contaminated by submerged tar sands.

Are these voices really so unimportant that we are willing to let a Canadian tar sands pipeline company and their allies in Congress ride roughshod over them? Absolutely not. The landowner and Native voices are at the heart of this fight against dirty energy.

We can do better by our farmers and communities by demanding clean power and rejecting dirty energy projects such as the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

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Energy

Robert Redford: Tar Sands Pipeline is a Bad Idea, Fails President's Climate Test

The more people learn about the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, the less they like it. Despite what we might be hearing in industry spin, the environmental report released by the State Department Friday confirms that tar sands crude means a dirtier, more dangerous future for our children all so that the oil industry can reach the higher prices of overseas markets. That's right, overseas markets, which is where the majority of this processed oil will end up. This dirty energy project is all risk and no reward for the American people.

You'll remember that the president said he won't green-light a project that raises the dangers of climate change. The State Department report makes it clear that this is exactly what Keystone XL would do. Bottom line: the tar sands pipeline fails the president's climate test. It's a bad idea. It needs to be denied.

When it comes to climate change, we know we have to do things differently. As the president said in his State of the Union address, we have to "act with more urgency—because a changing climate is already harming western communities struggling with drought, and coastal cities dealing with floods." Climate change hits us at home: hurting our health and our children. How does this translate into everyday decisions? We need to stop approving dirty energy projects that will only drive us further into the climate danger zone.

The President has the chance to get it right on Keystone XL. Whereas past State Department reports didn't even bother to look at the climate pollution from tar sands, claiming that they'd be developed with or without Keystone XL, this report is different. In this report, the State Department acknowledged that Keystone XL will drive tar sands expansion and climate change if we see low oil prices and other pipeline and rail projects don't move ahead.

But that is already the reality today with fierce opposition to tar sands pipelines and a glut in the current tar sands market. We've certainly seen plenty of honest comments from industry saying that if they don't get added pipeline capacity from Keystone XL now, they will scale back plans. That means those carbon emissions would be scaled back too.

So even though the State Department continues to downplay clear evidence that the Keystone XL pipeline would lead to tar sands expansion and significantly worsen carbon pollution and the very real harm to our health, it has, for the first time, acknowledged that the proposed project could accelerate climate change.

In any case, this report is not a decision. Next up is the national interest determination process. And here the evidence already shows that Keystone XL isn't a plan to help the country. It's about big profits for Big Oil.

Keystone XL would pipe some of the world's dirtiest oil through the American breadbasket to be refined on the Gulf and shipped overseas. That puts our farmers and ranchers at needless risk while not serving our energy or economic interests. I wouldn't call that national interest.

Here's what the State Department report confirms: the tar sands pipeline is a bad idea. It fails the President's climate test. It puts our farmers and ranchers at risk. It needs to be denied.

And we need to move, as a country, toward cleaner, safer, renewable sources of power and fuel.

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Visit EcoWatch's KEYSTONE XLand CLIMATE CHANGE pages for more related news on this topic.

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President Obama, We Need Climate Action on All Fronts


In recent weeks, we've been calling on President Obama to show the "courage of his convictions" when it comes to fighting climate change. In his speech last week, he agreed to take some essential steps in saving our planet, most notably cutting carbon pollution from power plants.

This is the right thing for our country. This is the way that America shows its leadership. And in taking these important steps toward a national plan for climate action, the President is showing his leadership.

Power plants are the largest source of carbon pollution in the U.S., and right now, those plants can spew an unlimited amount of carbon into our air and account for about 40 percent of our carbon footprint. When America's new climate plan takes on power plants, it will strike a blow against the climate chaos that threatens us all.

With the Clean Air Act, we can limit this source of climate pollution. In fact, under a plan the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has proposed, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could develop safeguards under which each state would have its own carbon reduction target, tailored to its specific energy mix. We can even take on carbon pollution from power plants in a way that is affordable for utilities and actually means a cost savings of up to $700 a year for consumers on their electric bills. That's real money for our families.

Without question, we're facing a climate crisis. And it is taxpayers who are bearing the high costs. Just last year, taxpayers spent nearly $100 billion on crop losses, wildfires and disaster relief from Hurricane Sandy. Our coastal communities are under siege. The Great Plains are suffering drought for the third year in a row. Our people are hurting—and they're demanding action.

That's why the second significant pronouncement of the President is also critical. Simply put, President Obama gave a climate test to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would bring the climate destroying tar sands from Canada to the Gulf Coast across our waters and farms.

The President said he is not going to approve the Keystone XL pipeline if it harms the climate because doing so would not serve the national interest. I applaud him on this and I know tens of thousands of other do as well. We know that we cannot fully address climate change while facilitating expansion of the tar sands. That's why the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is a bad idea. This pipeline will drive expansion of tar sands and its climate pollution. It's not in our national interest and could never pass a climate test. It needs to be denied. Our climate, our waters and our communities depend on it.

The need to keep moving forward with climate action on all fronts is imperative. Which is why it is incumbent upon us, in the months to come, to communicate with both the President and the American public about some of the more misguided parts of the plan. Specifically those that continue to support substantial expansion of the use of fossil fuels through natural gas fracking in the U.S. and building overseas markets for it, as well as pursuing "clean coal" technology.

The President is doing what's right for the country by limiting carbon pollution from power plants and establishing a national plan for climate action. And I hope he maintains the courage of his convictions next, by denying the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, and continuing to fully engage in this multifaceted and most profound challenge of our times.

Visit EcoWatch's CLIMATE CHANGE page for more related news on this topic.

Climate

Arkansas Spill: Another Red Flag Exposing the Dangers of the Keystone XL Pipeline

Robert Redford

When I see raw tar sands coursing through people's yards and across wetlands, it makes me sick. My thoughts are with the people in Arkansas who are dealing with this river of toxic mess. And my thoughts instantly move ahead to what could happen to farms, families, homes and wild areas across our country if we support expansion of tar sands with permits for pipelines such as Keystone XL. The answer seems clear, especially when we look at the graphic video footage from Arkansas: tar sands expansion rewards the oil industry while putting us all at risk of oil spills and climate change. That's a raw deal by any calculation.

Let's recap what happened in Arkansas and why it is such a timely reminder that tar sands expansion and tar sands pipelines hurt us. On March 29, Exxon's Pegasus tar sands pipeline ruptured, flooding a suburban community outside of Little Rock, Arkansas with hundreds of thousands of gallons of tar sands crude. This toxic river of heavy tar sands bitumen and volatile petrochemical diluents is not a mix that anyone would want flowing in front of their houses.

Diluted bitumen from the Exxon pipeline spill in Mayflower, Ark. on April 6. Photo: Tar Sands Blockade

So when it comes to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would take Canadian tar sands crude across America's breadbasket to the Gulf Coast where much of it would be exported overseas, the Pegasus rupture in Arkansas is another red flag. We've had a lot of these red flags lately that show us what a raw deal tar sands is and we ignore them at our peril.

We've seen the devastation of one of the last great places on earth in the devastation to Canada's Boreal forest. And we've seen the homes and health of First Nations communities who live near the tar sands. We've seen how the energy intensive tar sands production has meant a rapid increase in climate pollution in Canada. We've seen the worsening effects of climate change in droughts, floods and violent storms. We've seen tar sands oil polluting our rivers and communities in the 2010 Michigan spill and in over a dozen spills from the first so-called "state-of-the-art" Keystone pipeline. And we hear the fears from residents of refinery communities of what the additional pollution from tar sands refining will mean for their health. Looking at all this, it is clear that the Arkansas tar sands spill is the latest drumbeat in a series of reminders that tar sands crude is different and dangerous.

Keystone XL would bring nearly ten times as much tar sands crude as the Pegasus pipeline through American communities and waters. It is not in our nation's best interest to pipe tar sands across our fields and aquifers so that the oil industry can reach the higher prices of overseas markets. How many red flags do we need before we realize that the solution is to stop tar sands expansion and say no to tar sands pipelines? I think we've seen enough.

With only several weeks left in the public comment period for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, let's tell our leaders that we don't want more tar sands in America's pipelines, backyards and rivers. Let's tell them that we have better energy choices. Let's send a clear message to deny the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline at www.stoptar.org.

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

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Will the U.S. Senate Stand Up for Our Future and Derail the Keystone XL?

Robert Redford

Rumor has it the U.S. Senate will consider a budget bill provision to approve the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Here's what they need to share with their constituents:

1) It's great for Big Oil. Bad for America. And really bad for climate change, producing three times more global warming pollution than conventional crude production, and using vast amounts of energy and water, causing significant pollution to both air and water.

2) Canadian citizens are against tar sands pipelines too, fighting the Gateway Pipeline to their west coast—and through British Columbia's Great Bear Rainforest—and the Trailbreaker pipeline to carry tar sands to east to Maine.

3) It's dangerous and dirty—it's dirty tar that's diluted with chemicals and then pushed through the pipeline at high pressure, which creates very high temperatures. It's more corrosive to the pipeline than oil, so it eats away at the pipelines, which then rupture and blow.

4) The first Keystone pipeline, already operating in America, has spilled 14 times and had to be shut down twice due to safety concerns, and another one of its pipelines exploded.

5) Tar sands spill are difficult to impossible to clean up. After more than two year and nearly a billion dollars in clean up costs, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that nearly 40 miles of the Kalamazoo River is still contaminated by submerged tars sands.

6) Pretty much all the oil goes to foreign countries after America takes all the risks. This will not solve our energy challenges, it will not improve our national security and it is not an American jobs program. (Thirty-five permanent jobs and 3,500 construction jobs over two years).

Those of us against this thing believe this is a bad deal for America and it'll make climate change considerably worse, faster. It will be the third new tar sands dedicated pipeline, which will lock us into a dependence on this destructive, dirty source for years to come.

We are not irrational extremists. We are people who believe that a clean and sustainable future is possible. We believe in American ingenuity when it comes to clean energy technologies. America has shown time and time again—remember the American Space Program—that with proper investment, we can meet any challenge in front of us. Tell President Obama to reject the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline.

And call your U.S. Senator today. Tell them this pipeline is bad for America.

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

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Climate

Does State Department Have Head in the Tar Sands on Keystone XL's Role in Climate Change?

Robert Redford

Mr. Secretary, I am disappointed. I thought that we all understood that to fight climate change, we have to be able to say "no" to dirty energy projects. Our friends around the world are looking to us for climate leadership and it starts with drawing the line at tar sands expansion. It also means that we need to give health and environment a fair shake in the environmental review of a dirty energy project such as the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Yet the draft environmental review prepared by the State Department for Keystone XL misses what folks in industry themselves are saying: the Keystone XL project is necessary for expansion of tar sands. We know this means that Keystone XL will make climate change worse.

Once again, the State Department acknowledges that tar sands are dirtier than conventional oil and will make climate change worse. So how, can it then not tell us about what this means for our climate? Somehow, the State Department claims that tar sands will be developed anyway so it doesn't need to look at the harm done by expansion. This just doesn't make sense. Our friends in British Columbia are saying no to tar sands pipelines to the west coast. Our friends in eastern Canada and New England are saying no to tar sands pipelines to the east coast. Rail is a pretty expensive alternative. What is left? Keystone XL's path to the Gulf Coast.

But don't just listen to me. Let's look at what some of the industry's own experts are saying.

Global energy consultant Wood McKenzie found that "a lack of visibility on available transportation capacity and, in turn, the prices that may ultimately be achieved could impact oil sands projects' commercial viability." To me that means that without ways to get tar sands to the coast for export, the price of this very expensive to extract oil is going down making it a risky investment.

TD Economics, a major Canadian Bank, talks about pipeline capacity constraints as "a serious challenge to long term growth" of the tar sands.

And most clearly from an economist: "Unless we get increased [market] access, like with Keystone XL, we're going to be stuck."

The point is that the tar sands industry's expansion plans are not possible without the proposed Keystone XL pipeline project and delay in deciding the fate of Keystone XL has already affected expansion. This amounts to real climate pollution that affects real people here at home and around the world.

Luckily, this is just a draft environmental review. Now is the time for the public to make itself heard. And Mr. Secretary, I'd ask that you listen closely to people's concerns about what expanded tar sands would mean for our future. This is not a future we want. It is time to take a hard stance on Keystone XL. We need a clear evaluation of the damage to our health and environment that will result from this dirty energy project. And then we need to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

Visit EcoWatch’s CLIMATE CHANGE and  KEYSTONE XL pages for more related news on this topic.

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