The Keystone XL pipeline is the perfect symbol of our disastrous energy policies and broken political system. Now that $100 a barrel is the new floor for oil prices, the oil industry can finally turn a large profit from the tar sands in western Canada. Tar sands expansion requires moving the diluted bitumen as rapidly and cheaply as possible to heavy oil refineries, most of which are in Texas and Louisiana.
Oil companies do not care about the carbon footprint of the tar sands. Nor are they concerned about the environmental consequences of a pipeline spill or refinery emissions. They do not have to lose sleep about the external costs because they know they can buy off politicians.
There is no need to bore you with a long list of politicians betraying the public to serve the oil industry. We only need look at a few specifics for TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline. Throughout the approval process, the Obama State Department has hired consultants with close ties to oil industry, including TransCanada, to dismiss concerns about climate change, pipeline spills, refinery emissions, and land rights. In case you are wondering, giving the State Department the authority to approve energy trade agreements was a gift of George W. Bush.
The pipeline is a very high priority for the oil industry and the American Legislative Exchange Council. Even though the decision rests with executive branch, Congress has been clamoring to get on the record to pledge allegiance to Keystone XL. Here is Exxon's smarmy response to the Senate's recent vote demanding approval of the pipeline.
Indeed, what makes Friday’s vote so important is the degree to which it represents strong and growing support for the project among elected Democrats – 17 of whom voted for the measure – as well as Republicans.We cannot get these idiots in the Senate to vote on anything substantive because of the 60 vote threshold to bring any measure to the floor, but 67 votes on a symbolic measure to please the oil industry was easy as pie.
Three days after celebrating spinelessness in the U.S. Senate, Exxon was struggling to contain a river of diluted bitumen running through Mayflower, Arkansas after a 22-foot long rupture opened up in its Pegasus pipeline. Major spills like this one were discounted as highly unlikely by the State Department for the Keystone XL pipeline.
Our democracy is broken. As a private citizen, one of the few options left to register your opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline is to comment on the State Department's draft supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS).
I urge you to lend your voice by making a public comment by the April 22nd deadline. Start with Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse's introduction to the Blogothon, which contains a treasure trove of resources.
To simplify the process, 350.org has created a template and will deliver the comment to the State Department. If you have limited time and do not wish to wade through the 2000 page SEIS, this option is ideal. Their goal is to deliver one million comments by the deadline.
I chose to write my own comment. Here it is:
RE: FR Doc No: 2013-07072In case you are still undecided on whether to take the time to comment, consider the following. The conservative government of Stephen Harper in Canada has implemented new rules to further disenfranchise the public from having a say on energy policy decisions. The latest attack comes in the form of new rules for public comment on oil pipelines.
I was deeply disappointed in the draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) on the Keystone XL pipeline prepared for the State Department. This line is designed to bring diluted bitumen from western Canada to refineries in Texas and Louisiana.
The SEIS grossly underestimates the risk and consequences of a major release from the pipeline. PHMSA data show high risk for a major release from main line pipes greater than 16 inches in diameter, yet incident risk was based largely on aggregate models combining pipeline and component data regardless of size. This gives a very misleading picture of spill potential for the proposed Keystone XL 36-inch diameter pipeline. The data were further constrained to ignore incidents where the cause of the leak was undetermined, which eliminates more than a quarter of incidents from spill risk calculations. The narrative briefly mentions the 2010 spill of diluted bitumen from Enbridge's Line 6B in Michigan, but ignores the size (1 million gallons), cost of cleanup ($1 billion), length of impairment (3+ years), and continuing difficulty removing spill components. This line is one of the few that are directly comparable in volume to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Also ignored were 14 failures in less than 2 years for Keystone line segments completed in 2010. Virtually all of the spill impact data were based on light crude rather than the behavior and toxicity of diluted bitumen. Taken together, the SEIS risk assessment is misleading and erroneous.
Equally disturbing is the flawed assessment of the pipeline's impact on climate disrupting greenhouse gas emissions. West Canadian bitumen has a much higher carbon footprint than conventional light crude. The SEIS chose to emphasize an oil industry estimate from IHS CERA that only focuses on extraction, ignoring the refinery emissions from the life cycle analysis.
The SEIS claims that the pipeline will have no impact on the rate of oil sands development. This is false. The industry has consistently admitted that this pipeline will allow them to save money and expedite development because diluted bitumen can be delivered directly to heavy oil refineries. Without this pipeline, companies would have to spend an additional $100 billion on upgrading facilities. The delay in approval of this pipeline has already slowed development by as much as 5%, creating backlogs.
Finally, wastewater discharges from the Gulf Coast refineries were ignored in the SEIS.
Environmental hearings for new or altered pipelines have always been messy affairs – until now. The Conservative government has created a new rule requiring those who simply wish to write letters to the National Energy Board to obtain the board’s approval in advance. Letter-writers have the right to write their letter if they can establish that they are directly affected by the pipeline in question. If they don’t have a direct interest, but have specialized knowledge, the board may agree to hear from them.Oil and democracy do not mix.
The Globe and Mail, April 9
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