Jane Kleeb: 'We the People Have Changed the Tar Sands Pipeline Game Forever'
The pipelines exporting tar sands out of Alberta are almost full, according to a new analysis released today by Oil Change International. Without major expansion-driving pipelines such as Energy East, Kinder Morgan or Keystone XL, there will be no room for further growth in tar sands extraction, and tens of billions of metric tons of carbon will be kept in the ground. This would be a significant step towards a safer climate, cleaner water and air, and healthier communities.
NEW REPORT: No new pipelines = no room to grow for the #tarsands! More: https://t.co/mhCp9yWfqd #NoKXL https://t.co/QQp5uE3KAm— Oil Change Intl (@Oil Change Intl)1445954105.0
“The tar sands have run out of room to grow,” says Hannah McKinnon of Oil Change International. “Production is close to peaking, and now it is time for a recognition that tar sands production has no place in a climate safe world.”
All proposed new pipeline routes out of Alberta are facing legal challenges, opposition by local authorities and regulators, and broad-based public opposition. All of the major projects have been significantly delayed with some cancellations seemingly imminent. No pipeline has been built since 2010, despite active industry efforts.
To assess the impact of these pipeline constraints, Oil Change International built a new and comprehensive model called the Integrated North American Pipelines model. It finds that the current system is 89 percent full, and the industry will run out of transportation capacity as soon as 2017.
Subsequent economic and carbon analysis of the model data finds:
- Further growth in the sector is unlikely to be viable without major pipeline expansion
- Transporting tar sands by rail is too expensive to justify major new growth
- The emissions savings of no new growth would be 34.6 gigatons of CO2 (equivalent to the annual emissions of 227 coal plants over 40 years)
“This model shows us what every board room in the sector is stewing over—this industry does not have room for profitable growth,” says Tom Sanzillo, director of finance at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. “Under mainstream oil price forecasts, the model shows that market access constraints take new growth from being commercial to uncommercial.”
The model’s findings are detailed in a report, Lockdown: The End of Growth in the Tar Sands, published by Oil Change International with the support of Bold Nebraska, Environmental Defense Canada, Equiterre, Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club U.S. and 350.org.
"This new report is conclusive proof that organizing works,” said May Boeve of 350.org. “In the four years since we began marching, sitting-in, and risking arrest to keep tar sands in the ground, no new pipelines have been built. It's victory for our climate, our future, and for all the communities who are the front lines of this fight. With development locked down, it's time for investors and politicians to look past the tar sands and start investing in the just transition to an 100 percent renewable energy future."
"We are seeing the results of a movement that has stood up to dirty pipelines that harm our climate and our communities” said Lena Moffitt of the Sierra Club. “Now is the time to invest instead in clean and renewable sources of energy and leave dirty fuels where they belong—in the ground.”
With the outgoing Canadian Stephen Harper administration having faced major international criticism on climate and energy, the pipeline constraint also offers incoming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the new government an opportunity to change course.
“When asked about the Energy East pipeline during the election, Liberal leader and now Prime minister-designate of Canada, Justin Trudeau said that ‘governments give permits, people give permission’ and clearly, people are saying no to pipelines all across North America,” said Steven Guilbeault of Equiterre.
“It’s simple—without more pipeline capacity, the tar sands can not be recklessly expanded,” said Jane Kleeb of Bold Nebraska. “People are standing in the way of Keystone XL and other equally risky and unnecessary pipelines. Gone are the days when Big Oil can buy their way to approval of their risky pipelines. We the people have changed the tar sands pipeline game forever.”
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One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
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The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
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