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    KEYSTONE XL PIPELINE  




                  President Obama on Keystone approval - June 25 2013
"Our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution . . . The net effects of the pipeline's impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward." -

August 29 2013: Would the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution? The Sierra Club, Oil Change International, and 13 partner groups have released a report that settles the issue unequivocally: Keystone XL would be a climate disaster.  Start with the one fact that the State Department, the U.S. EPA, climate scientists, and even Wall Street and industry analysts all agree on: The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline will create massive amounts of carbon pollution. However the State Department argued in its environmental review of Keystone XL that tar sands development was inevitable, regardless of whether the pipeline is built. That's not true for several reasons. Tar sands can be processed only at specialized refineries. The accessible U.S. and Canadian refineries capable of handling it are already at or near capacity. In order to expand production, tar sands producers must reach the U.S. Gulf Coast, where the heavy crude can be refined or, more likely, exported. Although other pipeline projects have been proposed to export tar sands east, west, and south from western Canada, all of them face legal, technical, economic, and political obstacles that make them unlikely. Using rail is too expensive because tar sands transport requires special heated rail cars and loading terminals. Industry experts and financial firms like Goldman Sachs have already said this will be cost-prohibitive. link


The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has risen from 280 parts per million to 393 ppm over the last 150 years. The tar sands contain enough carbon - 240 gigatons - to add 120 ppm

Breaking news: Feb. 19 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  

Feb. 26 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 (See also State Dept. role below)

Feb. 5 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  (See also European connection below)

          ________________________________________________

          Below
  • Why this pipeline is important / jobs argument
  • U.S. State Department role
  • Problems ahead for Keystone 
  • What's happening in Canada
  • The European connection
  • Why Nebraska is a prominent factor - is the pipeline safe?
  • Washington DC protests August/September 2011

Why this pipeline is important

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 1,400 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

       "Let's be the generation that finally frees America from the tyranny of oil."
These words from President 
Obama are what generate the actions of Bill McKibben, who orchestrated the Keystone protests in Washington DC. Now he writes in Rolling Stone to explain all. Read 

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 

 Bush administration legislated against tar sands oil

In 2007, President Bush signed into law Section 526 of the Energy Independence and National Security Act of 2007 which prohibits the US government, the largest single fuel purchaser in the U.S., from using taxpayer dollars to purchase fuels that have a higher carbon footprint than conventional oil. This little-known law is significant because Congress crafted it, in part, with the explicit intent to block the US from buying Canadian tar sands oil, considered the dirtiest oil on the planet. Meanwhile the Canadian government has been working behind the scenes to strike Section 526 from the books to clear the way for tar sands extraction. According to Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org and one of the leaders of the Keystone pipeline protests, the burning the recoverable oil in the Alberta tar sands by itself would raise the carbon in the atmosphere by 200 parts per million (ppm). It wasn’t hard to figure out that this would increase the 390 ppm carbon in the atmosphere today by more than half.  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)  

The jobs argument. A Cornell study finds only 2,500 to 4,650 temporary jobs over two years would result from building the pipeline, not the 20,000 claimed by the TransCanada Corp. (A one year extension of a federal solar grant program could create 37,000 jobs.) Another downside is that during 2010, spills and explosions in America caused one billion dollars worth of damage and 22 oil workers were killed during that period.  link
 

April 2013: Keystone XL will create just 35 permanent jobs and emit 51 coal plants of carbon. Secretary of State John Kerry has the State Department’s Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, but if that is all the information he relies on, he won’t get the full picture. While he will see that the project will only bring 35 permanent jobs, he would also see almost no discussion of the pipeline’s impact on the climate.  To learn the consequences of approving the Keystone XL pipeline he could peruse a new report from Oil Change International called: “Cooking the Books: How The State Department Analysis Ignores The True Climate Impact of the Keystone XL Pipeline.” The report’s recommendation: The State Department should base critical decisions on whether the project makes sense in a world that is actually seeking to minimize the real dangers of climate change. On this basis, we recommend that decision-makers consider the total amount of carbon that will be released by the project into the atmosphere. link

U. S. State Department role

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

Environmental Protection Agency officials found the first two drafts to be far from satisfactory and gave the first draft its lowest grade of 'inadequate' almost a year ago. They also report that on a well-to-tank basis the heavy crude extracted is 82% more carbon intensive than conventional oil. 

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  

Some problems ahead for Keystone 
 
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. "Let’s be clear — I am an engineer; I am not telling you we shouldn’t build pipelines. We just should not build this one."  link 

June 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


What's happening in Canada

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

The European connection

Why Europe is connected to the Keystone project - link   
Stephe
n Harper's Canadian government, allied with big oil, is lobbying Europe not to regulate tar sands oil. 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.)

October 2011: Europe moves closer to banning tar sands oil.  link

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

Why Nebraska is a prominent factor - is the pipeline safe?

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 
(
The first stage of Keystone had 14 accidents in its first year of operation. link)   

January 2013: Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman approved new routelink  
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

December 2012: Keystone XL fails to use aquifer safeguards as used in Texas.
The leak detection technology that will be used on the Keystone XL is standard for the nation's crude oil pipelines and rarely detects leaks smaller than 1% of the pipeline's flow. The Keystone will have a capacity of 29 million gallons per day, so a spill would have to reach 294,000 gallons per day to trigger its leak detection technology. The Keystone XL also won't get two other safeguards found on the 19-mile stretch of the pipeline over Austin's aquifer in Texas: a concrete cap that protects the Longhorn from construction-related punctures, and daily aerial or foot patrols to check for tiny spills that might seep to the surface. link


Nebraska update: November 2011: Nebraskans ready to fight alternative routes. Concern is growing that new legislation won't protect landowners outside the Sandhills, who may be impacted by a rerouted pipeline. link  January 2014: Cash offers skyrocket as much as 700% for landowners resisting Keystone. Among all states along the proposed route, Nebraska stands alone. Landowners have signed in every other state but, in Nebraska, nearly one-third are still fighting. link

Why Michigan spill concerns Nebraskans. 

The study argues the pipeline operators TransCanada Corp, have significantly underestimated the chances of a spill and painted an overly optimistic picture of how long it would take to shut down the pipeline, noting that TransCanada, in its estimates, sees the possibility of 11 serious spills on the pipeline during the course of 50 years where a more realistic estimate would be 91 accidents during that half century. Issue is also taken with TransCanada's claims that it could shut down a pipeline within 19 minutes of a leak. A slow leak in a remote area of Montana or Nebraska could go undetected for days or even weeks between inspections, he warned. It took 56 minutes before ExxonMobil crews managed to stop the leak into the Yellowstone this month.     link  (Pictured is a rupture of the Enbridge pipeline Summer 2010 that spilled roughly 800,000 gallons into the Kalamazoo River, shutting the pipeline down for 2 months - link.)
June 2012: Leak estimate now put above one million gallons - link
March 2013: Enbridge warns Kalamazoo cleanup could approach $1 billion. Increasing dredging requirements resulting from Enbridge’s massive oil spill into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River in 2010 could push the cleanup bill to almost $1-billion, above and beyond what is covered by insurance. Earlier this month, the U.S. EPA ordered Enbridge to perform additional dredging to remove submerged oil and to maintain sediment traps throughout the river as a result of the rupture. link

July 2011: Montana leak may have carried tar-sands oil. link   
July 2011:
Keystone XL pipeline fight flares in wake of Yellowstone river oil spill. 
link

August 2012: Tar sands in Utah. There are about 25 billion barrels of bitumen (oil sands) buried on state and federal land in Utah according to the Utah Geological Survey which would supply all the nation’s current oil needs for a little more than three years. link
   
Washington DC protests
 
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 

August 2011 - New York Times opposes the Keystone XL pipeline - tcktcktck   

August 2011: An open letter from 20 prominent scientists to President Obama

"We are researchers at work on the science of climate change and allied fields. We are writing to add our voices to the indigenous leaders, religious leaders, and environmentalists calling on you to block the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline from Canada’s tar sands.
The tar sands are a huge pool of carbon, but one that does not make sense to exploit. It takes a lot of energy to extract and refine this resource into useable fuel, and the mining is environmentally destructive. Adding this on top of conventional fuels will leave our children and grandchildren a climate system with consequences that are out of their control. It makes no sense to build a pipeline system that would practically guarantee extensive exploitation of this resource.
When other huge oil fields or coal mines were opened in the past, we knew much less about the damage that the carbon they contained would do to the Earth’s climate system and to its oceans. Now that we do know, it’s imperative that we move quickly to alternate forms of energy—and that we leave the tar sands in the ground. We hope those so inclined will join protests scheduled for August and described at tarsandsaction.org.
If the pipeline is to be built, you as president have to declare that it is “in the national interest”.  As scientists, speaking for ourselves and not for any of our institutions, we can say categorically that it’s not only not in the national interest, it’s also not in the planet’s best interest."

    Activist leaders explain how they beat the Keystone XL pipeline - link

June  2011: An open letter to Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer from the Northern Plains Pipeline Landowners Group on the Keystone project in light of the recent ExxonMobil oil spill in the state. link 

Inside Climate News  recommended source for material on Keystone.
Politico link on Keystone XL pipeline.


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