Quantcast

'Keystone XL Clone' to Pump Tar Sands Oil Starting Next Year

Climate

As Republicans get set to test their new majority in the U.S. Senate and their complete control of Congress to push through approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, a new investigative report by editor Lou Dubose at the Washington Spectator reveals that the construction of a "Keystone XL clone" pipeline with almost the same capacity is already taking place. While TransCanada continues to battle the public outcry against its Keystone XL project, another company, Enbridge, is quietly building the Alberta Clipper pipeline. Like Keystone XL, it will pumped 830,000 oil barrels (bbl) a day of tar sands bitumen crude oil from the Alberta oil fields to U.S. refineries.

The Alberta Clipper is an already-existing pipeline with a 450,000 bbl a day capacity. In November 2012 Enbridge applied for the permit to ramp up capacity to 800,000 bbl for the pipeline which runs from Alberta to Wisconsin to Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast where the oil will be refined and exported.

"In six to eight months the Canadian tar-sands spigot opens to full capacity," wrote Dubose. "Barring litigation or action by the State Department, Enbridge will achieve what has eluded TransCanada. And it will have done so with scant attention from the media and without the public debate generated by campaigns against the Keystone XL."

The Spectator analyzed State Department documents, annual reports and interviews with Enbridge officials and lawyers to learn how the company pushed through a pipeline virtually identical to Keystone XL without a public process or attracting much attention. While a pipeline that crosses international borders requires presidential and State Department approval declaring that the project is "in the national interest," the Spectator says Enbridge used a creative interpretation of an existing 1967 permit to circumvent the law and public opinion.

The Alberta Clipper is an already-existing pipeline with a 450,000 bbl a day capacity. In November 2012 Enbridge applied for the permit to ramp up capacity to 800,000 bbl for the pipeline which runs from Alberta to Wisconsin to Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast where the oil will be refined and exported. Fed up with delays, the company wrote to the State Department last June, telling it that they planned to go ahead with upgrades with or without a permit.

"Enbridge wasn’t asking," said the Spectator. "It was informing the State Department of its plans to press ahead."

Its evasion of the approval process involved hooking up two existing pipelines, one on the Canadian side, one on the U.S. side. It already had a cross-border connector built in 1968 for light oil, long before mining the heavy-oil tar sands became a reality. It maintained that upgrading the old pipe with pipe capable of carrying tar sands oil is merely "maintenance" and therefore doesn't require a new permit. And it's already telling investors it's a done deal, set to begin pumping its new contents by the middle of next year.

The State Department has denied Freedom of Information Act requests in what the Spectator said "appears to be a deliberate effort to keep the press and public in the dark." It said that the Sierra Club had filed such a request in March and was denied. Environmental groups have announced they will sue the State Department for working with Enbridge to circumvent the legal process.

“The State Department is charged with determining if the importing of Canadian tar-sands oil is in the national interest,” Sierra Club staff attorney Doug Hayes told the Spectator. “Enbridge applied for a permit a year ago [sic], then in June informed the State Department that the process was taking too long. So they came up with their scheme to avoid, to try to avoid, the State Department permitting process and expand the pipeline immediately. And the State Department basically looked the other way and said, 'That’s fine with us.' But what they are doing is illegal. First of all, it is illegal because it violates the National Environmental Policy Act. It also violates the existing presidential permits for the Alberta Clipper and the adjacent Line 3 Pipeline. This is all happening behind closed doors. It is a deliberate effort to keep the public out of the process."

Pipeline opponents, including environmentalists and community activitists, will find Enbridge's history of negligence and secrecy unsettling.

Enbridge is the company behind the July 2010 oil spill on the Kalamazoo River in Michigan, the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history, when a segment of its pipeline ruptured. Three inspections over the previous five years had detected a defect in the pipeline which the company had not repaired because in its judgment it did not reach required repair level under federal standards. It did not provide this information when an Enbridge executive testified about pipeline integrity and spill detection to a House committee ten days before the rupture. And it has repeatedly fought attempts to require safety measures to protect communities and the environment against the impacts of possible spills.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Energy East Pipeline: TransCanada's Keystone XL on Steroids

Keystone XL Pipeline Owner TransCanada Named 'World Climate Leader'

Kinder Morgan Claims Oil Spills Can Have ‘Positive' Effects

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

This study found evidence of illegal hammerhead fins in 46 out of 46 sampling events in Hong Kong. NOAA / Teachers at Sea Program

By Jason Bittel

Authorities in Hong Kong intercepted some questionable cargo three years ago — a rather large shipment of shark fins that had originated in Panama. Shark fins are a hot commodity among some Asian communities for their use in soup, and most species are legally consumed in Hong Kong, but certain species are banned from international trade due to their extinction risk. And wouldn't you know it: this confiscated shipment contained nearly a ton of illegal hammerhead fins.

Read More Show Less
A video shows a woman rescuing a koala from Australia's wildfires. VOA News / YouTube screenshot

More than 350 koalas may have died in the wildfires raging near the Australian town of Port Macquarie in New South Wales, but one got a chance at survival after a woman risked her life to carry him to safety.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Heat waves emanate from the exhaust pipe of a city transit bus as it passes an American flag hung on the Los Angeles County Hall of Justice on April 25, 2013. David McNew / Getty Images

Air pollution rules aren't doing enough to protect Americans, finds a major new study that examined the cause of death for 4.5 million veterans, as The Guardian reported.

Read More Show Less
Coldplay playing at Stade de France in Paris in July 2017. Raph_PH / Wikipedia / CC BY 2.0

Coldplay is releasing a new album on Friday, but the release will not be followed by a world tour.

Read More Show Less
Ash dieback is seen infecting a European ash (Fraxinus excelsior) in Bottomcraig, Scotland, UK on Aug. 10, 2016. nz_willowherb / Flickr

Scientists have discovered a genetic basis to resistance against ash tree dieback, a devastating fungal infection that is predicted to kill over half of the ash trees in the region, and it could open up new possibilities to save the species.

Read More Show Less