President Trump signed an order greenlighting the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline Friday, a move that circumvents a court's decision to block a previous federal permit on the long-delayed project.
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Of the many Obama-era environmental decisions that President Donald Trump reversed once he took office, one of the most painful was his move to re-approve the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport 830,000 barrels of oil a day from Alberta's tar sands through Montana to Nebraska, where it would connect with existing pipelines leading to the Gulf Coast.
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"Keystone XL has undergone years of extensive environmental review by federal and state regulators," TransCanada spokesman Matthew John told Omaha World-Herald. "All of these evaluations show that Keystone XL can be built safely and with minimal impact to the environment."
Environmentalists spoke out against President Donald Trump's State Department after it found "no significant environmental impacts" in its review of TransCanada's long-gestating Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline.
The alternative route approved by Nebraska regulators in November would have "minor to moderate" impacts from its construction and operation, according to the 300-page draft report released Monday. It said the route would not have a major impact on the state's water resources, soils or wildlife. It may cause minor impacts on cultural resources such as Native American graves.
By Jake Johnson
Shortly following the Nebraska Public Service Commission's "shortsighted and dangerous" vote to green-light TransCanada's Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline, a coalition comprised of Indigenous peoples, farmers and ranchers living along the oil project's proposed route published a letter on Monday urging the public to join them in protecting sacred land from corporate exploitation.
Endorsed by Native tribes, green groups and high-profile environmentalists, the "Promise to Protect" call to action argues that making "a concerted stand" against TransCanada's $8 billion dirty energy project "will make other fossil fuel companies think that much harder about their own expansion plans."
Residents of Mayflower, AR who were victims of Exxon’s Good Friday tar sands spill that coated their neighborhood in toxic tar sands traveled to DC to hand-deliver a letter to Secretary Kerry asking that he reject Keystone XL. The members of the Remember Mayflower Coalition stood in front of the State Department to appeal to Secretary Kerry, urging him to consider the recent spill—and the subsequent devastation—and listen to the Vice President’s opinion on the pipeline as he makes his final analysis of Keystone XL.
The residents appealed to Secretary Kerry to accompany his staff on a fact-finding trip to Mayflower. From the letter:
Before you issue your final evaluation of Keystone XL, we ask that you and your staff come to Mayflower to see what happens when a tar sands pipeline ruptures in your backyard. We ask that you observe the remnants of black tar, smell the toxic chemicals that are polluting our air and ask yourselves whether you can in good conscience inflict this same devastation on families along Keystone XL’s route.
"Bold Nebraska has invited President Obama to Nebraska and now Secretary Kerry has an open invitation to visit Arkansas," said Jane Kleeb, executive director of Bold Nebraska and member of the All Risk, No Reward Coalition. "They have got to look our families in the eyes before they do this to us."
“My four children and I have grown up on this lake, but it’s no longer safe to be here or to breathe the air,” said Mayflower resident Genieve Long. “Other families shouldn’t have to take on these risks or worry about their health and safety. This already happened to my family—I want to make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone along the Keystone XL route.”
“I'm not a tree-hugger and I'm not an activist, but I am a concerned, single dad of 15-month old boy. One day my son will inherit my property along with 400 linear feet of pipeline. There are enough things to think about as a landowner, let alone when there’s a possibility of another tar sands rupture,” said Mayflower resident Damien Byers. “These pipelines are too risky for me and my son and they’re too risky for families in Nebraska. We need to shut down Pegasus and stop Keystone XL. The All Risk, No Reward Coalition and the Remember Mayflower Coalition are teaming together to help people like me.”
The Remember Mayflower Coalition announced that they would be joining the “All Risk, No Reward” Coalition to stop Keystone XL.
Here's the letter submitted today:
May 9, 2013
Secretary John Kerry
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20037
Dear Secretary Kerry,
We are writing on behalf of all affected families in Mayflower, Arkansas—the 22 families who were evacuated from their homes, the dozens of people living in surrounding areas who have been exposed to toxic chemicals, and the hundreds of thousands of Arkansans who get their water from the Lake Maumelle watershed—to ask that you remember Mayflower as you continue to evaluate the permit for Keystone XL.
After witnessing the devastation in our community following the Good Friday tar sands spill, we cannot in good conscience sit by and watch as other communities suffer the same fate. ExxonMobil has demonstrated that tar sands pipelines spill. Their Pegasus tar sands pipeline spilled first in Arkansas—and then one month later across the border in Missouri. And when these tar sands spill, they threaten our water, our health, and our homes.
We are working with elected officials to move Exxon’s Pegasus pipeline away from the Lake Maumelle watershed, which provides drinking water for hundreds of thousands of Arkansans. We have overwhelming support from community leaders and politicians, and will do everything we can to protect our water.
But the people of Nebraska aren’t as lucky. The Ogallala Aquifer provides irrigation and drinking water for millions of Americans in Nebraska and across the country, and their water is at risk if Keystone XL is constructed. But they don’t have the same advocates we have. You and President Obama are their only hope to protect their water, land, and health.
There is still so much we don’t know about tar sands—about the economic risks of them spilling in communities, about how they impact important water sources, and about how they effect our health. We don’t know enough to say “yes” to a massive tar sands pipeline through the country’s heartland.
Before you issue your final evaluation of Keystone XL, we ask that you and your staff come to Mayflower to see what happens when a tar sands pipeline ruptures in your backyard. We ask that you observe the remnants of black tar, smell the toxic chemicals that are polluting our air, and ask yourselves whether you can in good conscience inflict this same devastation on families along Keystone XL’s route.
We will open our doors to you and your staff—and promise home-cooked Southern meals to accompany our accounts of the spill.
Danielle and Kevin Brown
Amanda and Joseph Dorset
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By Andy Rowell
Love him or loath him, you can certainly say one thing about Al Gore: he is winding the Canadians up into a right-old rage.
Yesterday, I blogged how he called the tar sands an “open sewer.”
He added that he did not know what Obama would do on Keystone XL, but regarding Obama and his climate policies he said, “I still hold out hope that he will be as positively surprising in his policy initiatives this year as he was in his speeches.”
He also dismissed the Canadian’s long-term public relations campaign to dress up the dirty tar sands as somehow being “ethical oil” compared to oil from the Middle East.
“There’s no such thing as ethical oil,” he said. “There’s only dirty oil and dirtier oil.”
And the tar sands is among the dirtiest of them all.
Gore’s “open sewer” comments have certainly stirred up a hornets' nest back in Canada. It is worth looking at Gore’s comments in context. He was asked:
“Have the oil-sands boom and pipeline debates affected Canadian-U.S. relations?”
To that he replied:
“Yes, and I think that ultimately it hurts Canada. The so-called resource curse is most often understood in the context of small nations whose revenue streams are dominated by the exploitation of a single resource.”
“It’s a bit more complex than that with Canada, but the resource curse has multiple dimensions and [including] damage to some extremely beautiful landscapes, not to mention the core issue of adding to the reckless spewing of pollution into the Earth’s atmosphere as if it’s an open sewer.
“We will come to our senses, but I had hoped that Canada, like Australia, would point us in the right direction and added to the chances for the world as a whole to make a moral and courageous decision sooner rather than later.”
Many people would see these sentiments as wholly rational, and a continuation of what Gore has been saying for a while. But not in Canada. A columnist for the Edmonton Journal called Gore's comments both “insulting” and “untrue.”
Joe Oliver, Canada’s Natural Resources Minister, who is in Europe, has also been widely quoted as complaining about the remarks. He is on yet another lobby tour of Europe, trying to bully the Europeans into submission on their climate legislation, as I blogged about yesterday.
But Al Gore’s comments have had a favorable response from some Canadian politicians.
“If it’s a choice between Al Gore and Joe Oliver on climate change, I think that we should be listening to Al Gore,” the New Democrat leader Thomas Mulcair told reporters. “Al Gore is simply calling it the way everybody else who’s looked at the science of climate change is calling it,” he added.
Mulcair then called Oliver “an embarrassment to all of us.”
Many people in Europe would agree with Mulcair on that one.
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By Lauren Berlekamp
Despite a "massive cleanup effort," ExxonMobil has recovered only 2,000 of the total 5,000 barrels of spilled Canadian tar sands crude in Mayflower, AR, according to the accident incident report from last month's Pegasus pipeline disaster. The report was released by the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) through a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Sierra Club.
“After its Pegasus pipeline ruptured more than a month ago, ExxonMobil sent an army of 600 workers into Mayflower in an attempt to clean up and contain more than 200,000 gallons of dirty tar sands," said Glen Hooks, Sierra Club senior campaign representative. "ExxonMobil has torn up yards and streets, evacuated families from their homes, sucked up wetlands and culverts, chased away media, and intimidated residents and elected officials.
"What ExxonMobil hasn’t done in the past month, according to the accident incident report, is recover even half of the tar sands that it spilled in Mayflower. More than 3,000 spilled barrels—that’s 126,000 gallons—of toxic tar sands are unaccounted for. Mayflower deserves better. ExxonMobil needs to find the missing tar sands, clean up its mess and make Mayflower whole again.”
Just one month after the Pegasus pipeline spewed toxic tar sands oil in Mayflower, where 83 people were evacuated from their homes and 2,000 barrels reached local waterways, the same pipeline spilled in a residential neighborhood of Ripley County, MO, last Tuesday.
“Two tar sands spills in one month is devastating no matter where it happens, but it is particularly alarming that Keystone XL would run through one of our country’s largest sources of freshwater that provides irrigation and drinking water for millions of Americans,” said Randy Thompson of All Risk, No Reward Coalition.
“The images from the Arkansas community were awful. Just imagine those same photos from the Ogallala Aquifer, and the financial damage that would cause. America cannot afford this kind of risk.”
According to the All Risk, No Reward Coalition, TransCanada, who would own and operate the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, already has an atrocious safety record. While TransCanada pledged that its original Keystone pipeline would “meet or exceed world-class safety and environmental standards” in 2010, the pipeline experienced 12 separate spills in the U.S. in the first year of operation—nearly one every month.
According to a report by Cornell University’s Global Labor Institute, the original Keystone pipeline had “over 30 spills” during its first year in the U.S. and Canada combined, with one of those spills releasing 21,000 gallons of dirty tar sands oil. The original Keystone pipeline has been shut down multiple times since then. Even the PHMSA shut down the pipeline under a Corrective Action Order, saying that continued operation would be “hazardous to life, property and the environment.” It had only been operational for one year at the time, making it the newest pipeline to ever be shut down by PHMSA for being a threat to public safety.
The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, which will be nine times larger than the Pegasus pipeline, will not benefit the U.S. The pipeline will create only 35 permanent jobs, based on the State Department’s Environmental Impact Statement, and fail to reduce dependence on Mideast oil since Keystone XL products will likely be exported overseas, including to China and Venezuela, according to the All Risk, No Reward Coalition.
American communities are not only at risk from spills, but also explosions.
On April 27, a massive explosion occurred at the Marathon Detroit Refinery, which processes more than 100,000 barrels of Canadian tar sands oil every day. As a large plume of thick, black smoke from one of the refinery's smaller tanks darkened the sky, residents had to be evacuated from the Detroit suburb of Melvindale, located in Michigan’s most heavily polluted zip code, according to the Detroit Free Press.
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Mark Zuckerberg has not yet issued any response to public criticism that his political action group, FWD.us, is funding advertisements supporting construction of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, and oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the Gulf of Mexico. FWD.us, co-founded by Zuckerberg with additional donations from a host of his fellow Silicon Valley superstars, has right-wing and left-wing subsidiaries working on parallel tracks to pass bipartisan immigration legislation.
Those subsidiaries run advertisements for vulnerable Republicans and Democrats pledged to support that legislation. The ads generally don't mention immigration reform—which is politically unpopular among conservatives—and some of them include ringing endorsements for Big Oil's pet projects including Keystone XL. While immigration reform is an important cause, many Americans, particularly those of my generation, are uneasy with a strategy that seems to advocate sacrificing our planet's future as an iffy wager for the bill's passage.
Mr. Zuckerberg—a hero to many young people—has in the past been eloquent in his support for transitioning from fossil fuels to knowledge-powered and new energy economies. Now that his financial ties to the pro-tar sands advertisements are public knowledge, many of us who want a brighter, cleaner future for America and who admire his other accomplishments hope Mr. Zuckerberg will disassociate himself from their dubious content.
There are already enough billionaires advocating for Keystone XL and Big Oil's other criminal enterprises. Anti-Keystone XL activists have written a million letters to President Obama, appeared 40,000 strong to demonstrate against Keystone XL in Washington, D.C. and engaged in peaceful civil disobedience by the thousands in locales from Texas to the White House gate. It's disheartening to see all the billionaires, including leaders of my own generation, lined up against us.
It's our great and only hope that President Obama will listen to the voice of democracy and—acting as a trustee for future generations—kill the pipeline. He promised in his rousing inaugural address, to make the battle to save the planet from climate chaos the centerpiece of his second administration. The Keystone XL decision is one of the few climate change issues solely under his control. To plug Keystone, President Obama needn't genuflect to a Congress awash in democracy polluting oil money. He can do it while sitting alone in the Oval Office. The concern is that President Obama, instead, will simply count the fat cats and weigh their furor—or their indifference—rather than reading his mail.
Americans who want to stop the Keystone XL pipeline may outnumber those who favor the pipeline but we will never out-money them—particularly when Mr. Zuckerberg and his legions of 21st century technology moguls take the side of Big Oil's 19th century robber barons. Without some disavowed, young clean energy advocates who regard Mr. Zuckerberg as an iconic leader of our generation are apt to view his investment in the opposition to be not only disheartening, but treacherous.
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By Andy Rowell
Here’s a question for you. What have one of the world’s richest companies and one of the world’s richest men have in common?
The answer: They have both censored adverting criticizing their actions on climate-related issues.
So Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg joins Exxon in those accused of cynical censorship of free speech.
As we have pointed out, Exxon has repeatedly tried to ban adverting by Oil Change International and others.
But yesterday it emerged that Facebook has rejected an advertisement by CREDO Mobile criticizing the actions of Fwd.us, the political group started by Zuckerberg and others in the tech industry.
Fwd.us is funding political advertisements that endorse the Keystone XL and expanded oil drilling, via their support for a group led by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), called Americans for a Conservative Direction.
Another group receiving Fwd.us support is the Council for American Job Growth which is working to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling.
CREDO Mobile, which has been an ardent critic of the Keystone XL pipeline, launched a campaign on Facebook to protest against the ads, but Facebook has banned them, supposedly because it uses Zuckerberg’s image.
However ThinkProgress has pointed out that the image used was fully licensed for creative commons use, although Facebook maintains that any images of Zuckerberg are not allowed as he is part of the Facebook brand.
Not surprisingly, CREDO Mobile thinks Facebook’s position is untenable. Their political director Becky Bond told the Washington Post “you can’t use Facebook ads to talk about what Mark Zuckerberg is doing.”
The problem for Zuckerberg is that censorship, which is often the weapon used by the rich and powerful, often backfires.
As the Chinese contemporary artist Ai Weiwei has said: “Censorship is saying: ‘I’m the one who says the last sentence. Whatever you say, the conclusion is mine.’ But the internet is like a tree that is growing. The people will always have the last word—even if someone has a very weak, quiet voice. Such power will collapse because of a whisper.”
And people are whispering now, Mr Zuckerberg, even on Facebook.
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On Monday, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) told the State Department that the information in the State Department's Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the Keystone XL pipeline is "insufficient." Among EPA's many concerns was the State Department's failure to adequately address the pipeline's impacts on climate change. EPA raised a host of other issues. In fact, the State Department's EIS is not useful for answering some of the most basic questions about Keystone XL.
Ever since Feb. 13, when I chained myself to the White House fence with 47 other protestors urging President Obama to kill the Keystone pipeline, people have asked me why I felt strongly enough about the issue to endure arrest. Many of them have the same questions that should have been asked in the State Department's EIS. If we don't build the pipeline through the American prairie, won't the oil companies just route it through British Columbia by rail, tank trucks or pipelines and sell their oil to Asia? Won't the Keystone XL pipeline give America energy security and the U.S. jobs? Won't the pipeline lower the price of gasoline at the pump? Haven't the oil industry and government regulators given us adequate assurances that Keystone is safe? Don't the oil and pipeline companies have their own incentives to make sure the Keystone pipeline doesn't leak?
Here are the answers:
1) Is the Keystone XL Pipeline safe? Anyone who watched the oil industry and its regulators scramble to point fingers and dodge responsibility during the BP oil spill should be skeptical about industry claims of pipeline safety. Tar sands oil, sometimes known as bitumen, is extraordinarily corrosive and the industry has not figured out how to stop it from bursting even the most fortified pipelines. On March 31, an Exxon pipe carrying 95,000 barrels per day of Alberta tar sands oil from Illinois to Texas refineries burst and flooded an upscale suburb in Mayflower, Arkansas beneath an ocean of toxic heavy bitumen and lighter dilutents, added by oil companies to help the gelatinous bitumen move through the pipe. Arkansas taxpayers were shocked to learn that thanks to a loophole artfully created by the industry's political allies, they—not the oil companies—will have to pay for the cleanup.
That same week a burst Minnesota pipeline vomited 15,000 gallons of Alberta crude. In 2010, an Exxon pipeline in Michigan spewed a million gallons of dilbit into the Kalamazoo River, causing the worst and most expensive pipeline-based oil spill in U.S. history. Experts are still scratching their heads trying to figure out how to clean up the Kalamazoo spill which received little coverage from the mainstream corporate media. Clean-up crews commonly collect aquatic oil spills using floatable booms. As it turns out, tar sands oil doesn't float. Instead, it tarred and coated the Kalamazoo River bottom, which is the foundation of the aquatic ecosystem. In fact, oil and gas companies even shipping conventional oil, experience thousands of oil spills each year. In June, an Exxon pipe that runs parallel to the proposed route of the Keystone XL pipeline burst, spilling between 750 and 1,000 barrels, at a crossing on the iconic Yellowstone River and killed life in that blue ribbon trout fishery and national treasure for 25 miles.
Given the industry's abysmal record, it's safe to say that Keystone XL will experience a major spill and, due to its planned route, that spill will almost certainly contaminate the Ogallala aquifer, the sole water supply for millions of middle state Americans as well as the breadbasket of American agriculture and the ranching industries in seven states.
2) Keystone XL will not create significant American jobs. According to the State Department's study, Keystone will provide only 35 full time jobs following the construction period. We could more beneficially create permanent jobs by incentivizing solar and wind development which, even with the current anemic federal incentives, are creating each year, more new generation capacity than all the incumbents (oil, gas, coal and nuke) combined. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are already 93,000 jobs in solar and 85,000 in wind, and those numbers are growing exponentially.
3) Keystone XL will neither improve energy security nor lower gasoline prices. Virtually all of Keystone's Alberta tar sands oil is destined for Asian markets. Canadian and mostly non-U.S. owned oil services companies, the Koch Brothers, and Asian plutocrats will profit from the pipeline but there will be little value to the U.S. in terms of security or lower oil prices. In fact, U.S. oil prices will actually increase as the result of Keystone because U.S. oil prices are dictated not by world market prices but by refinery capacity in this country. Since tar sands oil destined for Asian markets will first be refined in U.S. refineries, tar sands will compete for limited refinery space and therefore drive up the price of oil. The State Department estimates that the average cost of American gasoline will actually rise upward of 7¢ per gallon if Keystone is constructed. The Pipeline will hurt the U.S. economy, not help it.
4) Why are environmentalists mad at Obama? Why have they made this the political line in the sand for his carbon legacy? Because this issue is one of the few issues that is solely under Obama's control. President Obama doesn't need to go to a Congress awash in democracy polluting oil money. He can pull the plug on Keystone XL while sitting alone in Oval Office. If we cannot win this issue with Obama, what hope do we have with other environment issues where he has to work with Senate Republicans?
5) If we don't build Keystone, the oil companies will just haul their tar sands out by rail and truck, generating more carbon and more spills. The $7 billion Keystone pipeline will transport 1.1 million barrels each day—far more than could be transported economically by rail and truck traffic. If we stop Keystone, we lock most of this carbon permanently underground.
6) If we kill Keystone, the oil companies will not build a pipeline elsewhere in Canada. The oil industry will not build an alternative pipeline elsewhere in Canada. Resistance among Canadians in British Columbia, especially salmon-dependent First Nations, is even greater than here in the United States.
7) We don't need oil-based fossil fuels while we ramp up renewables like Solar and Wind. Renewables are proven and market ready technologies. Their widespread deployment is only being impeded by multibillion dollar annual subsidies to oil and gas. In any case, the Keystone XL Pipeline is not a stop gap measure. Instead the pipeline will entrench our use of fossil fuels.
8) Keystone XL will have a catastrophic impact on climate change. The amount of carbon in the tar sands is equivalent to all the carbon in all the oil ever removed from Saudi Arabia. Burning the vast oceans of oil beneath Saudi Arabia has gotten us where we are today; ice caps melting, glaciers retreating on every continent, water supplies drying up, continent wide droughts disrupting agriculture and global food supplies, acidified oceans and rising sea levels, and climate chaos flooding our greatest cities. According to a new study published last week by Oil Change International, “Cooking the Books: How the State Department Analysis Ignores the True Climate Impact of the Keystone XL Pipeline," the pipeline will emit 181 methane tons of carbon every year—the equivalent of 37.7 million cars or 51 new coal plants. There are 561 tons of carbon locked in Alberta's tar sands. More than twice the amount, according to former Goddard scientist James Hansen, then have been released by all the oil and combustion in the history of mankind. We can double that sum by burning Alberta's tar sands, but what genocidal politician or oilman, would want to do that to future generations? We could better solve our energy problems by scuttling the pipeline, investing in renewables, and putting the greedy megalomaniacs from Koch oil and Exxon's puppets in the U.S. Capitol in jail, where they belong.
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