December 5, Washington DC

On an unseasonably warm Thursday afternoon, concerned citizens gathered to welcome President Barack Obama as he gave an interview at American University to discuss his legacy with Hardball’s Chris Matthews.  President Obama sat down with college students in a closed event, while many rallied outside with the message: reject Keystone XL and protect our climate.

If you replaced the internal organs of every US resident with marijuana and smoked 315,754,861 human-sized joints, the total carbon footprint of the production and combustion of this amount of marijuana would be roughly equal to operating the Keystone XL pipeline for 12 years. If all the marijuana was grown outdoors, the carbon impact would only be equivalent to running Keystone for 8.7 years.

Day of Action Sees Dozens Walk On to Work Site as the Nacogdoches Community Rallies with Affected Landowners at Lake Nacogdoches to Protect Fresh Water Supply from Toxic Tar Sands

NACOGDOCHES, TX – MONDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 2012 8:00AM – Today, four people locked themselves to heavy machinery used along the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline route. They were joined by several others forming a human chain to block the movement of heavy machinery onsite, while more than 30 people walked onto the same construction site to halt work early this morning. Meanwhile, three others launched a new tree blockade at a crossing of the Angelina River, suspending themselves from 50 foot pine trees with life lines anchored to heavy machinery, effectively blocking the entirety of Keystone XL’s path. Today’s Day of Action is in solidarity with local landowners struggling to protect their water and land from TransCanada’s toxic tar sands pipeline.




Why Oppose KXL?

There are a myriad of reasons to oppose the expansion of the already-existing Keystone system.

Tar sands, tar sands pipelines and related issues are vast and complex with literally thousands of reports and articles on the subjects. We’ve tried to distill this information in a digestible form by coming up with a simple list of the ten reasons why you should oppose this pipeline project–and join our action to stop it.

1. CLIMATE CHANGE – NASA’s leading climate scientist, Dr. James Hansen has called the Keystone XL pipeline “a fuse to the largest carbon bomb on the planet.” Hansen has said that if all the carbon stored in the Canadian tar sands is released into the earth’s atmosphere it would mean “game over” for the planet.

2. SPILLS – All pipelines spill. According to TransCanada the Keystone 1 pipeline was predicted to spill once every seven years. It spilled 12 times in its first year and it has spilled more than 30 times over its lifetime. The Keystone XL pipeline is built to spill, and when it does it will have a devastating effect upon employment and the economy, according to Cornell University.

The oil firm Enbridge ignored warning signs for more than five years along its 6B Line, and when it spilled in July of 2010 in Michigan’s Kalamazoo River it caused the most damaging onshore oil spill in US history.

3. EMINENT DOMAIN ABUSE – TransCanada has intimidated landowners along the pipeline route into signing contractual agreements for their land. TransCanada fraudulently steals land from private citizens through eminent domain.

A recent Texas Supreme Court case ruled that the application process for common carrier status, the status that allows private companies to seize property, does not not conclusively establish eminent-domain power.

TransCanada has indicated that up to 700,000 gallons of tar sands crude could leak out of the Keystone XL pipeline without triggering its real time leak-detection system.

4. WATER CONTAMINATION – The Keystone XL pipeline threatens Texas’ Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer which supplies drinking water to more than 12 million people living across 60 counties in drought-stricken East Texas.

The pipeline’s cross-border section also threatens the Ogallala Aquifer, the largest aquifer in the western North American region, upon which millions of people and agricultural businesses depend for drinking water, irrigation and livestock watering.

5. THE JOBS MYTH: KEYSTONE XL WILL DESTROY MORE JOBS THAN IT CREATESAccording the Cornell University’s Global Labor Institute, the pipeline project will actually destroy more jobs than it creates.

While proponents of the Keystone XL keep repeating the mantra of job creation in the media, it has become clear that the numbers they continue to project are patently false.

Far more jobs could be created by the development of a clean energy economy and infrastructure.

6. GAS PRICES – The Keystone XL pipeline will drive up gas prices, not lower them, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

7. TAR SANDS FOR EXPORT – TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline will not reduce American dependence on foreign oil. The pipeline will carry tar sands from Alberta, Canada to refineries in Port Arthur, Tex. to be sold on the global market to the highest bidder. This is a for-profit for export pipeline.

8. THE PIPELINE VIOLATES TRIBAL SOVEREIGNTY – The Indigenous Environmental Network has drafted the Mother Earth Accord with traditional treaty councils to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline and preserve the integrity of First Nations and tribal lands across Canada and the Untied States.

9. UNDISCLOSED TAR SANDS DILUTANTS – TransCanada refuses to disclose a comprehensive analysis of its mixture of chemical dilutants used to transport the otherwise viscous tar sands oil through the pipe, as well as human health and environmental risks associated with this secret mixture.

The Pipeline Hazardous Material Safety Administration told Congress that pipeline regulations were not designed for raw tar sands crude, that regulators had not yet evaluated what measures would be necessary to ensure that raw tar sands pipelines could be built and operated safely, and that PHMSA had not been involved in the environmental review.

10. FRAUDULENT ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW – The Environmental Impact Statement done of the Keystone XL pipeline was conducted by the State Department, not the EPA. Controversy erupted last fall over Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s ties to one of TransCanada’s top lobbyists, Paul Elliot. Elliot was one of Clinton’s top campaign officials during her 2008 presidential bid. The EIS found that the pipeline would have minimal impact on the environment, failing to properly analyze direct, indirect and cumulative impacts of the pipeline project.

The “Gulf Coast Project” or southern portion of the Keystone XL does not have its own environmental review despite the fact that many issues unique to Texas and Oklahoma, such as wild fires and drought conditions, have yet to be analyzed.  ||| 

While this report was mainly an environmental review, the State Department’s final conclusion that ‘approval or denial of the proposed project is unlikely to have a substantial impact on the rate of development in the oil sands, or on the amount of heavy crude oil refined in the Gulf Coast area’ is completely at odds with the economic reality in Alberta at the moment.

If I can take the liberty of summing up the first 3 reasons together, the gist is that tar sands oil sells at a steep discount ($45/barrel) partly because they have extracted and refined it a lot faster than they can sell it. A large capacity pipeline would balance out the supply and demand, allowing the extractors to raise the price and accelerate exploitation (I refuse to use the official term “production). If they can’t build the pipeline, there’s a good chance that tar sands exploitation would stagnate, which would be bad for the tar sands investors but good for humanity in general.

Reason 4 argues that rail isn’t a viable alternative to the pipeline for transporting tar sands oil. That could change in the future but I don’t have much to say about it.

Reason 5 argues that tar sands oil is not needed for North American energy independence.

Capital spending in US oil and gas exploration and production (E&P) has been running at a annualized rate of over $100 billion per year for the past decade, the equivalent of 25 cents of every dollar spent globally in recent years.

These investments have put the US on a path to energy independence over the next decade that is not reliant on dirty tar sands oil.

Further, if the US was able to raise its investment in renewable energy to even half of what it spends on oil and gas exploration and production (up from roughly one third as much today), the US could achieve its goal of US energy independence sooner.

It could also be working to limit the cost that dangerous climate pollution is already having on our economy.