Why Pipeline Opponents Cheered Monday's Keystone XL Approval
Yes, it's true that the Nebraska Public Service Commission voted Monday to approve the long-gestating Keystone XL (KXL) tar sands pipeline. But don't score it as a win for TransCanada—or as a "boost for Trump"—just yet.
That's because the commission approved the "mainline alternative route," and that's not the route that the pipeline operator wants.
It could take years before the project finally gets off the ground (if it ever does), as the alternative route includes 63 miles of new pipeline not yet approved by the federal government and plenty of landowners could stand in the way.
As Crystal Rhoades, a commission member, wrote in her dissent: "The route violates the due process of landowners. There are at least 40 landowners along the approved route who may not even know that their land is in this pipeline's path. Since they might not know that they are in the path of the pipeline, they may not have participated in this proceeding."
And you can bet with last week's 210,000-gallon oil spill from the existing Keystone pipeline in South Dakota that many landowners wouldn't be thrilled about the project.
Even TransCanada seemed lukewarm about the commission's decision.
"As a result of today's decision, we will conduct a careful review of the Public Service Commission's ruling while assessing how the decision would impact the cost and schedule of the project," said Russ Girling, TransCanada's president and chief executive officer.
Even though President Trump has issued a presidential permit for the KXL, it was based on an environmental analysis assuming that the pipeline would follow the route TransCanada preferred, The Hill reported.
A State Department spokesperson told The Hill that the agency "heard about a possible modified route, and we are in the process of gaining more precise information in order to determine if there will be any permitting impacts as a result of those changes."
Many pipeline opponents stressed that the fight is not over.
"The decision to re-route the pipeline opens up *tons* of opportunities for legal challenges. To name a few: there was no tribal consultation, proper environmental impact studies haven't been done, landowners weren't consulted, etc." Henn added.
Jane Kleeb, the founder of Bold Nebraska and a prominent anti-KXL activist, tweeted that the Public Service Commission's decision means "years of new review and legal challenges are now on the table."
Today was a victory for everyone working to stop Keystone XL. TransCanada did not get their preferred route which m… https://t.co/kYhSIQ43JD— Jane Fleming Kleeb (@Jane Fleming Kleeb)1511202388.0
Immediately after Monday's announcement, environmental groups and Native American tribes launched a renewed effort to battle the controversial pipeline, including the "Promise to Protect" campaign to make "a concerted stand" against TransCanada's $8 billion project.
Finally, Mother Jones pointed out that TransCanada's biggest challenge might come down to economics:
"When TransCanada originally proposed the route, the energy economy was different. As gas has flooded the market and oil prices have come down, TransCanada has had trouble attracting buyers interested in the heavy viscous oil that is more expensive and energy intensive to extract and refine. The company wants enough customers to fill 90 percent of its capacity before it proceeds. In June, the Wall Street Journal reported the 'oil producers and refiners the pipeline was originally meant to serve aren't interested in it anymore.'"
As Henn noted: "Every bit of uncertainty and every day of delay makes Keystone XL less likely. The economics are already stacked against this project and it's just a matter of time before the last few backers pull out leaving TransCanada all alone."
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By Katherine Kornei
Clear-cutting a forest is relatively easy—just pick a tree and start chopping. But there are benefits to more sophisticated forest management. One technique—which involves repeatedly harvesting smaller trees every 30 or so years but leaving an upper story of larger trees for longer periods (60, 90, or 120 years)—ensures a steady supply of both firewood and construction timber.
A Pattern in the Rings<p>The <a href="https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/coppice-standards-0" target="_blank">coppice-with-standards</a> management practice produces a two-story forest, said <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Bernhard_Muigg" target="_blank">Bernhard Muigg</a>, a dendrochronologist at the University of Freiburg in Germany. "You have an upper story of single trees that are allowed to grow for several understory generations."</p><p>That arrangement imprints a characteristic tree ring pattern in a forest's upper story trees (the "standards"): thick rings indicative of heavy growth, which show up at regular intervals as the surrounding smaller trees are cut down. "The trees are growing faster," said Muigg. "You can really see it with your naked eye."</p><p>Muigg and his collaborators characterized that <a href="https://ltrr.arizona.edu/about/treerings" target="_blank">dendrochronological pattern</a> in 161 oak trees growing in central Germany, one of the few remaining sites in Europe with actively managed coppice-with-standards forests. They found up to nine cycles of heavy growth in the trees, the oldest of which was planted in 1761. The researchers then turned to a historical data set — more than 2,000 oak <a href="https://eos.org/articles/podcast-discovering-europes-history-through-its-timbers" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">timbers from buildings and archaeological sites</a> in Germany and France dating from between 300 and 2015 — to look for a similar pattern.</p>
A Gap of 500 Years<p>The team found wood with the characteristic coppice-with-standards tree ring pattern dating to as early as the 6th century. That was a surprise, Muigg and his colleagues concluded, because the first mention of this forest management practice in historical documents occurred only roughly 500 years later, in the 13th century.</p><p>It's probable that forest management practices were not well documented prior to the High Middle Ages (1000–1250), the researchers suggested. "Forests are mainly mentioned in the context of royal hunting interests or donations," said Muigg. Dendrochronological studies are particularly important because they can reveal information not captured by a sparse historical record, he added.</p><p>These results were <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-78933-8" target="_blank">published in December in <em>Scientific Reports</em></a>.</p><p>"It's nice to see the longevity and the history of coppice-with-standards," said <a href="https://www.teagasc.ie/contact/staff-directory/s/ian-short/" target="_blank">Ian Short</a>, a forestry researcher at Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority in Ireland, not involved in the research. This technique is valuable because it promotes conservation and habitat biodiversity, Short said. "In the next 10 or 20 years, I think we'll see more coppice-with-standards coming back into production."</p><p>In the future, Muigg and his collaborators hope to analyze a larger sample of historic timbers to trace how the coppice-with-standards practice spread throughout Europe. It will be interesting to understand where this technique originated and how it propagated, said Muigg, and there are plenty of old pieces of wood waiting to be analyzed. "There [are] tons of dendrochronological data."</p><p><em><a href="mailto:email@example.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Katherine Kornei</a> is a freelance science journalist covering Earth and space science. Her bylines frequently appear in Eos, Science, and The New York Times. Katherine holds a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.</em></p><p><em>This story originally appeared in <a href="https://eos.org/articles/tree-rings-reveal-how-ancient-forests-were-managed" target="_blank">Eos</a></em> <em>and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.</em></p>
Earth's ice is melting 57 percent faster than in the 1990s and the world has lost more than 28 trillion tons of ice since 1994, research published Monday in The Cryosphere shows.
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Noreen Nunez lives in a middle-class neighborhood that rises up a hillside in Trinidad's Tunapuna-Piarco region.