Quantcast

Crude Behavior: The Tarnished Legacy of the Tar Sands Industry

Climate

National Wildlife Federation

By Peter LaFontaine

If the American dream can be reduced to a single image, it is of the homestead—a place earned through long days and late nights, hard work, planning and saving. It represents not only a dream realized, but an investment in your family and future, and a place that is rightfully all your own.

Now imagine that home, that achievement, taken away with a knock at your door, seized in the blink of an eye by a company you’ve never heard of, stolen away in distant boardrooms without your knowledge or consent, all of it enabled by the government you pay your taxes to. As Americans this seems unimaginable, and yet, for those whose homes lie in the cross-hairs of the tar sands oil industry, it’s a bleak reality.

Crude Behavior: TransCanada, Enbridge, and the Tar Sands Industry’s Tarnished Legacy, a new report from NWF, details the recent history of those companies, including underhanded legal campaigns against landowners, a systematic disregard for the rights of Native American tribes and negligent behavior that has led to significant tar sands spills in the U.S. and Canada.

As the industry plans to build thousands of miles of new or re-purposed tar sands pipelines across the country, the public and government officials need to learn what it actually means to invite in these neighbors. As the report makes clear, you shouldn’t unroll the welcome mat.

In the Great Plains, TransCanada (of Keystone XL infamy) has mounted a widespread misinformation assault, threatening lawsuits when farmers refuse to sign over their land to the company. In Texas, landowners and journalists have been threatened with arrest for “trespassing” as TransCanada bulldozes its way to the Gulf coast.

In New England, tar sands companies continue to insist, against all the evidence, that they have no plans to bring their dirty fuel through Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine—while simultaneously sponsoring tar sands spill cleanup workshops. And in the Midwest, Enbridge Inc. is plowing ahead with a massive expansion plan despite the lingering effects of the biggest inland oil spill in U.S. history, the 2010 Kalamazoo River disaster.

I’ve spent over a year following the ups and downs of this roller coaster ride, and it’s hammered home the fact that the tar sands industry (and oil companies in general) have an incredibly twisted understanding of what it means to be a good neighbor. In conversations with dozens of landowners and Tribal members, I have heard a constant message: “We feel powerless and betrayed by a system that is supposed to protect us.”

The Obama Administration has a crucial upcoming decision on Keystone XL, and we’re holding our collective breath, aware that the wrong choice would lead not just to climate catastrophe but also a dismantling of our basic rights to clean water, a meaningful voice in the process and safeguards for our private property.

As Jeff Insko—a Michigander who has been fighting back against these companies—puts it: “We’ve experienced first-hand the enormous gulf between Enbridge’s ‘good neighbor’ rhetoric and their callous treatment of landowners.”

Whether by looking for back-room deals in Washington, DC or taking ranchers to court, TransCanada, Enbridge and the other players have rewritten the book on how to do bad business in pursuit of profits. National Wildlife Federation has already detailed how tar sands is a terrible bet for wildlife, our climate, the American economy and public health, and Crude Behavior is another chapter in the sordid story of this industry.

Visit EcoWatch’s ENERGY, TAR SANDS and PIPELINES pages for more related news on this topic.

 

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) speaks during the North American Building Trades Unions Conference at the Washington Hilton April 10, 2019 in Washington, DC. Zach Gibson / Getty Images

Colorado senator and 2020 hopeful Michael Bennet introduced his plan to combat climate change Monday, in the first major policy rollout of his campaign. Bennet's plan calls for the establishment of a "Climate Bank," using $1 trillion in federal spending to "catalyze" $10 trillion in private spending for the U.S. to transition entirely to net-zero emissions by 2050.

Read More Show Less
Foto-Rabe / Pixabay

When Trump's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its replacement for the Obama-era Clean Power Plan in August 2018, its own estimates said the reduced regulations could lead to 1,400 early deaths a year from air pollution by 2030.

Now, the EPA wants to change the way it calculates the risks posed by particulate matter pollution, using a model that would lower the death toll from the new plan, The New York Times reported Monday. Five current or former EPA officials familiar with the plan told The Times that the new method would assume there is no significant health gain by lowering air pollution levels below the legal limit. However, many public health experts say that there is no safe level of particulate matter exposure, which has long been linked to heart and lung disease.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A crate carrying one of the 33 lions rescued from circuses in Peru and Columbia is lifted onto the back of a lorry before being transported to a private reserve on April 30, 2016 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Dan Kitwood / Getty Images

By Andrea Germanos

Animal welfare advocates are praising soon-to-be introduced legislation in the U.S. that would ban the use of wild animals in traveling circuses.

Read More Show Less
A tornado Monday in Union City, Oklahoma. TicToc by Bloomberg / YouTube screenshot

Extreme weather spawned 18 tornadoes across five states Monday, USA Today reported. Tornadoes were reported in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and Arizona, but were not as dangerous as forecasters had initially feared, the Associated Press reported.

Read More Show Less
A woman walks in front of her water-logged home in Sriwulan village, Sayung sub-district of Demak regency, Central Java, Indonesia on Feb. 2, 2018. Siswono Toyudho / Anadolu Agency /Getty Images

A new study has more than doubled the worst-case-scenario projection for sea level rise by the end of the century, BBC News reported Monday.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Matt Cardy / Stringer / Getty Images

The Guardian is changing the way it writes about environmental issues.

Read More Show Less
Blueberry yogurt bark. SEE D JAN / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Lizzie Streit, MS, RDN, LD

Having nutritious snacks to eat during the workday can help you stay energized and productive.

Read More Show Less
A 2017 flood in Elk Grove, California. Florence Low / California Department of Water Resources

By Tara Lohan

It's been the wettest 12 months on record in the continental United States. Parts of the High Plains and Midwest are still reeling from deadly, destructive and expensive spring floods — some of which have lasted for three months.

Mounting bills from natural disasters like these have prompted renewed calls to reform the National Flood Insurance Program, which is managed by Federal Emergency Management Agency and is now $20 billion in debt.

Read More Show Less