TransCanada's Relentless Push to Get Tar Sands Pipeline Continues

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by
Common Dreams

TransCanada's Relentless Push to Get Tar Sands Pipeline Continues

New Keystone XL route a environmental disaster, say green groups

by
Common Dreams staff

TransCanada, the Canadian company behind the controversial Keystone XL pipeline will reapply today for a federal permit to transport the 'world's dirtiest oil' from the tar sands mines of Alberta to the United States, according to various reports.  The previous permit was rejected by the Obama administration after strategic pressure from environmentalists last fall. 

Thwarted by public opposition, the pipeline company has re-strategized by breaking up the pipeline into smaller segments and now hopes to achieve completion of the project by gaining approval for each leg separately. The relentless push by TransCanada -- including a new route proposed for a section of the pipeline in Nebraska -- have not slowed criticism of the overall project.

“The new Keystone route fails to avoid significant risks to an important aquifer and the rivers and streams that provide fresh water for millions of people and habitat for endangered species like the whooping crane, piping plover, and pallid sturgeon,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity, which has worked to stop the destructive pipeline project. “It’s a game of environmental roulette, and the American public is being asked to bear all the risk for a pipeline that will mainly benefit big oil’s bottom line by allowing export of dirty tar-sands oil to the global market.”  

Jane Kleeb, executive director of the group Bold Nebraska, said the changes TransCanada made to the pipeline’s route in her state do not justify federal approval. “The fundamental facts remain; Americans are being asked to put clean water at risk for an extreme form of energy that will add nothing to our energy security,” Kleeb wrote in an e-mail to the Washington Post.

And criticizing the southern-most leg of the pipeline, which would run from Cushing, Oklahoma to the Gulf coast refineries, Friends of the Earth said the plan would be a boon for big oil but would devastate the wildlife and communities along the route and also spell disaster in the form of increased climate change for the planet. "The project," FOE said in a statement on Thursday, "would inflate oil industry profits while threatening our heartland with costly spills, amplifying the already-debilitating air pollution in refinery communities on the Gulf Coast, and vastly drive the expansion of climate-destabilizing tar sands development and consumption."

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The Washington Post: TransCanada expected to reapply for Keystone pipeline permit

The lower segment of the pipeline, from Oklahoma to Texas, is backed by Obama and congressional Republicans. It would cost $2.3 billion to build, transport 700,000 barrels a day starting in mid-to-late 2013 and alleviate a glut of oil at Cushing, a major energy terminal.

TransCanada is moving ahead on obtaining permits needed to build the Oklahoma-Texas leg of the pipeline, having recently submitted applications to district offices of the Army Corps of Engineers in Tulsa, Fort Worth and Galveston.

If the Corps does not respond within 45 days, the permits are automatically approved and construction can proceed, according to federal law.

An Environmental Protection Agency official has raised questions about whether that leg of the project qualifies for such an expedited review.

In a Nov. 8 letter to the Corps’ Galveston office, Jane Watson, associate director of ecosystems protection for the EPA’s Region VI, said the project warrants a more detailed environmental assessment.

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Center for Biological Diversity: New Keystone XL Route Is Environmental Disaster

A new route for the Keystone XL pipeline that TransCanada will reportedly submit permit applications for as early as Friday avoids portions of the Sandhills in Nebraska but crosses the Ogallala Aquifer, as well as hundreds of other water bodies and habitat for a number of endangered species.

If constructed Keystone XL will transport tar-sands oil 1,700 miles across six states and hundreds of waterways, posing an unacceptable risk of spill. An existing pipeline called Keystone 1 has already leaked 14 times since it started operating in June 2010, including one spill that dumped 21,000 gallons of tar-sands crude. Another tar-sands pipeline spilled 800,000 gallons in the Kalamazoo River.

If constructed Keystone XL will transport tar-sands oil 1,700 miles across six states and hundreds of waterways, posing an unacceptable risk of spill. An existing pipeline called Keystone 1 has already leaked 14 times since it started operating in June 2010, including one spill that dumped 21,000 gallons of tar-sands crude. Another tar-sands pipeline spilled 800,000 gallons in the Kalamazoo River.

Strip mining of oil from Alberta’s tar sands is also destroying tens of thousands of acres of boreal forest and polluting hundreds of millions of gallons of water from the Athabasca River, in the process creating toxic ponds so large they can be seen from space. Extraction and refinement of tar-sands oil produces two to three times more greenhouse gases per barrel than conventional oil and represents a massive new source of fossil fuels that leading climate scientist Dr. James Hansen has called “game over” for our ability to avoid a climate catastrophe.

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Friends of the Earth: TransCanada Secretly Moves Forward with Permits for Keystone XL Southern Segment

The Obama administration unconscionably gave its blessing to expedite the southern segment of the Keystone XL in March, despite widespread public outcry from national and local environmental, public interest, indigenous and landowner groups. Despite acknowledging the severe risks to the Ogallala Aquifer in delaying approval for Keystone XL in November, President Obama shamelessly ignored the southern segment’s potential impacts on the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer in Texas, which provides drinking water to more than 10 million Texans.The public has the right to know the particulars of a process through which a pipeline that would have massive impacts on land, water, public health and our shared climate may be approved any day now.

Adding to the appearance of an opaque and furtive process overseen by the Army Corps of Engineers, landowners and citizens all along the proposed pipeline’s path from Oklahoma and Texas have been stonewalled by the agency in their simple requests for information regarding the application, timeline, and process for TransCanada’s southern segment permits. The public has the right to know the particulars of a process through which a pipeline that would have massive impacts on land, water, public health and our shared climate may be approved any day now.

As the key segment of the Keystone XL pipeline, the southern leg of Keystone XL would provide the crucial link to relieving the current glut of tar sands oil in the Midwest by piping it down to refineries and international shipping ports on the Gulf Coast for export. The project would inflate oil industry profits while threatening our heartland with costly spills, amplifying the already-debilitating air pollution in refinery communities on the Gulf Coast, and vastly drive the expansion of climate-destabilizing tar sands development and consumption.

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