KEYSTONE XL PIPELINE
Breaking news: Jan. 9 2015: Nebraska Supreme Court removes a serious hurdle to construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, ruling that then-Gov. Dave Heineman had the authority to approve the project's route without review by a state agency. link
Jan. 20 2015: Transcanada files to seize land in Nebraska. TransCanada filed legal papers in nine Nebraska counties to invoke eminent domain for the land that is needed to construct, operate and maintain the pipeline. The filings come just before the company’s two-year window closed. By law, TransCanada can use the courts to force Nebraska landowners to sell access to their land. Company officials say they still need to acquire 12% of the total land easements from owners who have not yet reached a deal. Some holdouts have said they will not negotiate no matter how much TransCanada offers. link
The proposed Keystone XL Project would consist of approximately 1,711 miles of new, 36-inch-diameter pipeline, with approximately 327 miles of pipeline in Canada and approximately 1,384 miles in the United States. The project would cross the international border between Saskatchewan, Canada, and the United States near Morgan, Montana and would have a nominal transport capacity of 700,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil.(Note: one barrel = 42 US gallons.) The pipeline won't just be carrying ordinary oil. Sweet crude, for example, is moved through pipelines at around 150 pounds per square inch, smooth as molasses. The Keystone pipeline will carry tar sands, also known as DilBit, a highly corrosive and benzene-laced mixture of sand, clay water and bitumen at some pounds per square inch. The pressure is so great a leak in another Keystone pipeline once shot tar sands six stories high.
The decision on Keystone is watched around the world – link
March 2012: Tar sands exploitation will increase global temperature. A recent study has found that if the entirety of the tar sands were exploited it would raise global temperatures 0.64 degrees Fahrenheit (0.36 degrees Celsius). This represents around 45% of how much the world has warmed since the Industrial Revolution. link
November 2011: Alternative pipeline if TransCanada forced to cancel. Enbridge Inc., a competitor to TransCanada, said it has received sufficient customer commitments to move forward with two pipeline segments that would connect Alberta’s oil sands to refineries on the Gulf Coast. The Keystone XL pipeline requires State Department approval because it crosses the U.S.-Canadian border. Enbridge’s project wouldn’t be subject to State Department review because the section crossing the border already has been built. The new segments connecting to the existing pipe should face less opposition and regulatory review because they would follow routes where Enbridge controls rights-of-way. Enbridge’s plan would bring Canadian crude to Texas by mid- 2013, the same time period Calgary-based TransCanada expects Keystone would be finished. link (Enbridge is responsible for the 840,000 gallon spill in the Kalamazoo River -see below under 'is pipeline safe?') January 2014: TransCanada looks at dangerous alternative if Obama says ’No’. TransCanada CEO Russ Girling said his company will look to the more dangerous alternative of building rail terminals in Alberta and Oklahoma if the Obama administration doesn't approve the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. link
Argument in favor of Keystone: Within a few years of its completion, Keystone XL would deliver upwards of 830,000 barrels of oil per day from Canada's oil sands region to U.S. refiners. The Energy Information Administration reports that the additional oil production would secure reliable Canadian imports that would supply 57% of our crude oil needs, up from 51% in 2010. In a larger context, the pipeline would be part of an access strategy that could supply 92% of this country's liquid fuel needs by 2035. According to the Canadian Energy Research Institute, U.S. jobs supported by Canadian oil sands could grow to 465,000 in 2035. Nearly 1,000 companies from 47 states already are involved in oil sands development.For every dollar the U.S. spends on Canadian projects, including oil, Canadians return up to 90 cents through purchases of U.S. goods and services. link However, the Environmental Protection Agency suggested that pipeline review by the State Department (charged with approving the project) has been flawed and called for more scrutiny - after three years of study already. TransCanada, the pipeline's builder, hoped to get approval by last summer.
(July 2013) Two more problems for Keystone. The actual route is known only to TransCanada, but not the State Department. Without the actual routing, an environmental impact study becomes an issue. (link)
February 2014: Investigation of State Dept. ruling sought. Congressman. Raśl Grijalva requests investigation into State Dept. assessment saying it was carried out by a private contractor with known ties to TransCanada, raising concerns about conflict of interest - link
January 2014 This is not the Keystone decision that you think it is. The long-awaited report from the State Dept. on the Keystone XL oil pipeline says the pipeline won’t greatly boost oil-sands production or have a significant climate impact. The report calls for additional safety measures to prevent and deal with spills, but is generally being received as a thumbs up for the project. However, the fight is far from over. There are several big hurdles that remain. link
March 2013: State Department report on pipeline biased. The EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) recently concluded that the Keystone XL pipeline "is unlikely to have a substantial impact" on the rate of Canada's oil sands development. However the report was based on analysis provided by two consulting firms with ties to oil and pipeline companies that could benefit from the proposed project – InsideClimate
January 2013: Sen. Kerry says he will control review of Keystone XL pipeline decision. Sen. John Kerry made it clear that he will play a pivotal role in deciding the fate of the Keystone XL pipeline if he is confirmed as secretary of state. Kerry described climate change as one of the “life threatening issues” that defines American foreign policy. Kerry is one of the nation’s most vocal proponents of climate action. He co-authored comprehensive climate legislation that died in 2010 and has long pushed for American leadership in global climate treaty talks. link
July 2011: State Department blamed for inadequate assessment. For the second time in a year, the State Department has issued an environmental impact statement about the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. link
August 2013: Interior Department contradicts State on impact study. The Interior Department has warned that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline could have long-term, damaging effects on wildlife near its route, contradicting the State Department's March draft environmental assessment, which concluded the project would have only a temporary, indirect impact. link
April 2013: EPA raises fresh concern over pipeline. The EPA weighed in rebuking the State Department's review, saying it found environmental objections to the Department's controversial draft environmental impact statement, issued in March, which it deemed "insufficient." A 200-page comment submitted by environmental groups said perhaps the most glaring error is the State Department's assertion that the tar sands will be developed at the same rate regardless of whether Keystone XL is built. This assumption is flawed and unsupported, is directly contradicted by nearly all sectors including the oil industry itself, and it violates the State Department's NEPA obligations. link (The EPA says developing the tar sands would indeed have a negative impact on the environment, releasing as much as an additional 935m metric tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere over the next 50 years - link)
More lobbyists found complicit in gaining State Dept approval of tar sands pipeline - link
Oct. 3: E-mails released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the environmental group, Friends of the Earth, paint a picture of a sometimes warm and collaborative relationship between the lobbyist for the pipeline company, Trans-Canada, and officials in the State Department, the agency responsible for evaluating and approving the $7bn project. link
August 2014: Keystone XL emissions four times higher report. A new report concludes the Keystone XL pipeline could produce four times more global warming pollution than the State Department calculated earlier this year. Researchers estimate that the proposed pipeline would increase world greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 121 million tons of carbon dioxide a year, compared to the State department’s 30 million tons figure. link
December 2013: Canada’s oil sands look like a shaky investment. A new study examining the economics of Western Canada’s oil sands finds that even if the Keystone XL pipeline gets built, it’s unlikely that extracting the heavy, tar-like oil around Alberta will remain commercially viable over the next decade. link
October 2013: Canadian study spells trouble for polluting tar sands. A new Canadian study report on the country’s greenhouse gas emissions reveal that the CO2 emissions associated with a barrel of tar sands bitumen have been rising, not falling, in recent years, a trend that may well continue. The report could spell trouble for Canada as government leaders lobby the Obama administration to approve the Keystone. Oil companies are spending millions of dollars on experiments to find a viable way to bring the emissions of tar sands production under control but the government's annual emissions trends report does not assume that any breakthroughs are coming soon. link
October 2013: Keystone opponents plan widespread civil disobedience. Nearly 76,000 people have pledged to engage in dignified, peaceful civil disobedience that could result in arrest in order to send the message to President Obama and his administration that they must reject the Keystone XL pipeline. link
July 2013: Two more problems for Keystone. The actual route is known only to TransCanada, but not the State Department. Without the actual routing, an environmental impact study becomes an issue. (link)
May 2013: Major democratic donors urge Obama to reject Keystone pipeline. In the latest show of force by opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline, a group of 150 major Democratic donors sent a letter Friday to President Obama, urging him to reject Keystone. The signatories comprise business leaders, philanthropists and celebrities. (letter included in link)
July 2012: Top scientists urge Secretary of State Clinton to reassess pipeline. link
January 2012: Pipeline inspector-turned whistleblower calls Keystone a potential “disaster”. Mike Klink is a former inspector for Bechtel, one of the major contractors working on TransCanada’s original Keystone pipeline, completed in 2010. Klink, who says he’s speaking as an engineer and not an environmentalist, has just published a scathing op-ed in the Lincoln Journal Star criticizing Keystone XL. As an inspector, Klink's job was to monitor the construction of the first Keystone pipeline where he oversaw construction at the pump stations that have been such a problem on that line, already spilling more than a dozen times. "I am coming forward because my kids encouraged me to tell the truth about what was done and covered up," said Klink. linkJune 2012: Enbridge not positioned to pay for Gateway oil spill. A new report suggests Enbridge has under-estimated the risk of a bitumen spill along its technically challenging Northern Gateway Project and ignored the company's spill history in the United States in its risk studies. The report also concludes that Enbridge doesn't have adequate insurance coverage or the corporate structure to cover a multi-billion dollar spill either. Therefore while Enbridge would profit from any flow of oil, taxpayers would pick up costs of spills. link
April 2011: States have authority to accept route of pipeline. A federal memo suggests states have ultimate say on keystone pipeline's route. Advocates say the memo proves that states have the authority to regulate or reroute the controversial oil sands pipeline. link
February 2011: Some landowners mount legal bid to deny right-of-way to pipeline.
TransCanada has gathered easements to use the property of 5,354 landowners along the oil pipeline's route. Some in Oklahoma are among the last holdouts. Oklahoma attorney Harlan Hentges said "The prospect of a foreign company using the U.S. law to take land from U.S. citizens, this is problematic." link
February 2013. Tribal members sign treaty calling for an end to Alberta oil sands development and Keystone XL. People from about 25 U.S. tribes and Canadian First Nations came to South Dakota for three days last week to craft and sign a mutual-support treaty. Called the Gathering to Protect the Sacred from the Tar Sands and Keystone XL, the meeting was triggered in part by the new proposed pipeline route and related environmental issues. The signing ceremony for the landmark new International Treaty to Protect the Sacred from Tar Sands Projects served the dual purpose of commemorating the 150-year anniversary of the January 1863 Pawnee Nation and Ihanktonwan Dakota/Nakota Peace Treaty. The contemporary treaty-making was “a profound ritual for our time—this is what our ancestors did,” said one tribal member. link
50% of Canadians oppose Keystone XL pipeline. link(More on Tar Sands on Canada page.
November 2011: Battle brewing over pipeline plans in B.C. So far British Columbia has been spared the kind of intense pipeline fight that buffets the proposed Keystone XL project to carry Alberta crude from the oil sands to Texas. But not for much longer. Pipeline politics in this province are heating up. This week, the pivotal Tsleil-Waututh Nation declared its strong opposition to the potential expansion of Kinder Morgan’s existing oil pipeline to Burrard Inlet and the increase in oil-tanker traffic it would bring to their traditional waters. link
May 2014: Canada’s China alternative in serious jeopardy. With the Obama administration endlessly delaying a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, PM Harper’s alternative – the Gateway project exporting tar sands opil via Canada’s west coast to China, has hit hurdle after hurdle. Included are political factors such as Canada’s granting honorary citizenship to the Dalai Lama among other unfortunate geopolitical statement. Then there’s the outcry over a pipeline through First Nations’ lands in British Columbia. This Bloomberg article summarizes the history, and indicates doubt over future Alberta production has serious problems ahead. link
The European Commission has been debating whether to accept tar sands oil
June 2014: Europe relaxes stance on tar sands imports. A new proposal would not target oil sands crude but would still require companies to report on the emissions profiles of the various crude sources they use. And it proposes a review in 2016 to determine whether to impose emissions standards based on the feedstocks. The new proposal, while it doesn’t discriminate against Canadian oil to the degree it initially did, it still doesn’t encourage transparency. link
February 2014: European parliament again votes against tar sand oil. The European parliament voted for a continuation of the fuel quality directive beyond 2020, which would affect the import of high-carbon fuels such as those from tar sands. link Update - December 2014: The fuel quality directive, as written, may be overturned and will now go to a ratification vote early in 2015 - link
January 2013: European Commission sticks to a plan to label
fuel from tar sands deposits as highly polluting, deterring refiners bound by
environmental rules. link (As of October 2013, the European Commission has said it is standing by its value
for tar sands – of 107 grams per megajoule – making it clear to buyers that the
fuel source had more greenhouse gas impact than average crude oil at 87.5g.)
February 2012: Background to EU debate on tar sands import. A European Union is still debating labeling oil derived from oil sands as worse for climate change than crude oil, a proposal vigorously opposed by officials in Canada, where such oil is produced. The proposal will now go to the Council of the EU, representatives of the EU's 27 member countries – a decision was expected by June 2012. Canada had threatened to take the EU to the World Trade Organization if it singled out that type of oil as worse for the environment than others. But the European Commission, the EU's executive branch, contends that science justifies its proposal. The proposal would be a revision of the EU's Fuel Quality Directive, which sets a mandatory target for fuel producers and suppliers to reduce the carbon emitted by fuels by 6%from 2010 levels by the year 2020. The proposal, while it would not have banned oil from oil sands from being imported into the EU, would have assigned it a bigger carbon footprint than average crude oil. Under the European Commission proposal, oil extracted from oil sands would be deemed to emit 22% more greenhouse gas by weight than the average for crude oil. It would apply to such oil produced in Canada and Venezuela. link
October 2011: Britain at odds with Europe. The European Commission had decided that under the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) it would classify oil from tar sands according to its life-cycle emissions, but the British Government is reported as trying to persuade other EU countries to adopt a compromise motion described by green groups as a “wrecking amendment”. According to an official document seen by the Financial Times, the UK is opposed to “singling out oil sands and oil shale” and is instead pushing for a different methodology that would account for the greenhouse gas emissions of all crude oil sources. The Government says that it is a distortion of the truth to say that the UK is intervening in favour of oil from tar sands. It says it wants to drive down emissions from all sources, not just tar sands, and wants to see all heavy crudes dealt with equally. Britain has come under attack from environmentalists for seeking to delay attempts by the European Union to penalise oil derived from tar sands. link
September 2011: Is the pipeline safe? Semantics are being used to assure the pipeline is safe
according to the NRDC whose research shows that only 12 of the 57 conditions
set by federal regulators differ from the minimum standards already required
for pipeline safety. Environmental
watchdogs counter that those much-boasted-about claims are based on nothing
more than smoke and mirrors. And they have compiled evidence to back up their
accusations. "The State Department is saying it doesn’t need to do
a study because Keystone XL will be safer than any pipeline built in the United
States," NRDCs Anthony Swift said. "That's why we're concerned. In a
lot of respects, the State Department is taking TransCanada’s assertions at
face value." link
February 2014: Judge sides with landowners in eminent domain case. The law granting power of eminent domain to Nebraska’s governor, and in turn TransCanada, is ruled unconstitutional preventing authorization to advance pipeline construction in the state. link
January 2013: Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman approved new route. link
February 2013: Biggest environmental rally in decades attracts nationwide media attention. As many as 40,000 protesters descend on the White House - link
Link to the November 6th White House action which drew 10,000 people.
September 2011: Protests grow around the world. In New Zealand, protestors shut down the Canadian Embassy for three hours. In Germany, climate organizers led a bike protest through Berlin that visited major sites connected to the tar sands, including the Canadian Embassy. In Durban, South Africa a picket against the Keystone XL pipeline met Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she visited the US Embassy there. Across Africa, climate activists working with 350.org have been visiting Canadian and US embassies to deliver messages demanding an end to tar sands development. Similar actions also took place in Rio de Janeiro, Bonn, Mumbai, Sao Paolo, and Lima. link
As the 2-week protests end, 1,252 have been arrested in total.
Bill McKibben debates the pipeline on PBS Newshour - Aug.29
Activist leaders explain how they beat the Keystone XL pipeline - link
Inside Climate News recommended source for material on Keystone.
Politico link on Keystone XL pipeline.