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Posts Tagged ‘canada’

beforenafter1[1]The Keystone XL pipeline is embroiled in controversy from coast to coast. Environmentalists are rallied by its giant carbon footprint, the damage caused by spills, and the destruction of Canada’s boreal forests. Meanwhile, landowners are being forced to give up their property rights and cope with unacceptable safety issues.

More than thirty Texas waterways will be threatened by Keystone XL pipeline spills.  Tar sand is very difficult to clean up, especially in water.  And, Keystone XL is not required to pay the standard eight cents per barrel tax into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, which means the cost to clean up any spills along the pipeline could become the tax burden of U.S. Citizens.  When tar sand comes into contact with water it begins to separate, leaving the heaviest, thickest product on the bottom.  Meanwhile, benzene and other airborne toxins are lifted to the surface of the water and evaporate into the atmosphere, directly threatening human life.

Burst pipelineLandowners in Texas have been confronted with having a tar sand pipeline cross their farms and ranches.  Ranchers and farmers have no choice where the pipeline lays down on their property.  The easement around the pipe is fifty feet wide, and there will be a kill zone around and under the pipe due to its temperature, which may exceed 158 degrees F. A running pressure of 1,600 pounds per square inch introduces the possibility of a stream with enough force to cut a person in two should a small rupture in the pipe occur.  But, problems with the pipeline do not stop at inherent danger.  The land owners are given a choice of payment for the easement, which requires them to pay taxes on the land under the pipe or, they can have the easement condemned, which leaves them without the right to use that property.  In truth, the land owners have no option when companies such as Keystone XL decide that a pipeline should cross their property, except to deal with the risks, or leave.

To make matters worse, the tar sands that would flow through the Keystone XL pipeline won’t even be used in the U.S. – they are destined for export to foreign countries.  So, we will incur the risks to our land and water and will suffer the consequences of climate change, but we won’t have any more energy security than we do now.  That’s a bad deal.  The risks associated with the Keystone XL pipeline are unacceptable. Most importantly, these risks are avoidable.  Let President Obama know that you want him reject the Keystone XL pipeline because the risks don’t outweigh the benefits.  The recently released draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) from the U.S. Department of State acknowledged that construction of the Keystone XL pipeline would create “numerous” and “substantial” impacts on the environment, but it claims the project is better than the alternatives.  If you disagree, as I do,  send comments on the draft SEIS via email to: [email protected]

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After the Obama administration delayed a decision on an oil pipeline, which has been garnering more and more opposition from environmentalists, landowners and downwind communities near refineries along the proposed pipeline route that slices through the heartland of America, there are some who believe that this project could die from a number of issues that could come up as a result of re-routing the path of the pipeline, or re-doing the environmental impact statement (which was originally done by a State Department contractor whose major client was the pipeline owner).

But never fear, industry is doing what it always does when thwarted – they are throwing money at the problem and now Canada is stepping up its lobbying efforts.

Canada’s prime minister said he made it clear in a weekend meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama that Canada will step up its efforts to sell oil to Asia since the Obama administration delayed a decision on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

Meanwhile, Alberta Premier Alison Redford, the leader of the Canadian province that has the world’s third-largest reserves of oil, visited Washington on Monday and said she’ll meet with U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner and other officials to discuss the pipeline’s future.

Last week, the U.S. State Department ordered that the pipeline be rerouted and subject to further environmental review, delaying a decision until 2013.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who met Obama on the sidelines of the APEC summit, said Canada will continue to push the U.S. to approve TransCanada’s $7 billion Keystone XL project to the U.S. Gulf Coast.

The pipeline is critical to Canada which must have pipelines in place to export its growing oil sands production from northern Alberta, which has more than 170 billion barrels of proven reserves.

The Obama administration’s announcement to put off a decision went over badly in Canada which relies on the U.S. for 97 percent of their energy exports and the Harper government has said it is a strategic objective of the country to diversify its customer base. Canada, however, is expected to remain the biggest foreign supplier of oil to the U.S. even if the pipeline is not approved.

Harper said Obama told him the U.S. is continuing to examine the Keystone XL decision and that his government has not taken a final decision. The State Department wants the pipeline to avoid environmentally sensitive areas of Nebraska.

The prime minister previously characterized Obama’s approval of the project as a “no-brainer” but at least one oil analyst said the project now only has a 50 percent chance of being approved.

TransCanada wants to build the pipeline to carry crude oil extracted from the oil sands in Alberta to the refinery hubs in Texas. The pipeline would carry an estimated 700,000 barrels of oil a day, doubling the capacity of an existing pipeline from Canada.

TransCanada and its supporters have said the project would create U.S. construction jobs, help lower gas prices and reduce dependence on Middle East oil. Opponents say it would bring “dirty oil” that requires huge amounts of energy to extract and could cause an ecological disaster in case of a spill.

The heavily contested project became a political trap for Obama, who risked angering environmental supporters — and losing re-election contributions from some liberal donors — if he approved it. The State Department had previously said it would have a decision by the end of the year.  Now we will wait to see what happens after the 2012 elections.

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keystone 500 barrel spill

Spill Site 2 Days Later (click to enlarge)

On Saturday, May 7 the Keystone pipeline had a major rupture and spill near Cogswell, North Dakota spewing 500 barrels of oil in a geyser twice the height of the surrounding trees (about 60 feet). This pipeline is owned by TransCanada, the same company proposing to build the Keystone XL pipeline (an extension of the Keystone pipeline) down through Oklahoma and Texas.

Here is a video from WDAY Channel 6 out of Fargo, North Dakota covering the spill. The pipeline spill was the lead story.

What this video doesn’t cover is that this was not ordinary crude oil, but rather a far more toxic and dangerous substance called “tar sands” oil, mined in the vast tar sands strip mines in Alberta, Canada. It should also be remembered that this pipeline is only a year old (more or less brand new) and has already had 10 other “small” spills. Such a deplorable record should be sending off massive alarm bells for the expansion project proposed for Texas.

TransCanada is a private, foreign (Canadian) company which has been granted, for some reason, powers of eminent domain throughout the US – including Texas. This company has been using the threat of this power to bully landowners into signing contracts they do not want to sign. The permit for their expansion project, the Keystone XL, is still pending at the State Department. In light of this recent spill there is no way the state department should consider granting this irresponsible and reckless company the ability to further endanger the lives and well-being of Texans and US citizens.

As Alex Moore with Friends of the Earth recently stated, “Nobody should have to wake up on a Saturday morning to the sight of oil spraying 60 feet into the air near her home.”

For more information on tar sands and what makes it the “dirtiest oil on the planet,” see some of our previous blog posts on the subject:

Tailing Pond Duck Deaths

Stop Tarsands Oil Pipeline

Voices From Texas Landowners

Stop TransCanada

Bad Faith Tactics

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Tar sands oil makes conventional oil look clean by comparison, as it produces 3.2-4.5 times more the carbon footprint than conventional fuel. If that weren’t bad enough cleaner fuels such as natural gas, which otherwise might be used to generate electricity, are wasted in the process of creating more dirty energy from tar sands. Tar sands oil is a type of bitumen deposited in a semi solid form whose extraction is an extremely energy intensive project. For every third barrel of oil extracted one has effectively been consumed by the process. The process of tar sands oil extraction has left vast tracts of land barren with little vegetation as it is strip mined; while only 10%, of what is excavated, is oil. While some water is recyclable, the remaining toxic water is diverted to the euphemistically named “tailing ponds”. There are 2.5-4 barrels of water dumped into these toxic lakes for every barrel of oil extracted. These toxic “ponds” are actually very large; some are even visible from space.

Needless to say these pools are quite harmful to surrounding ecosystems as well as ground water supplies. The land left behind from tar sands extraction is a barren wasteland lacking vegetation and dotted with these toxic waste pools. Not only is the devastation comprehensive, it is widespread. Tar sands extraction in Alberta, Canada is set to affect an area the size of Florida.

Pipelines bringing this dirty oil to the United States have already been built, but TransCanada, an extractor of tar sands oil, has proposed to expand the pipeline system. Part of the proposed expansion will link to a current pipeline in Oklahoma and extend it into East Texas and the Houston Bay Area so that it might be refined there. These refineries will require expensive additions to handle this heavy crude. The planned route crosses through Texas and Oklahoma over rivers, through national forests, and across private land. Landowners have been threatened with eminent domain if they do not comply with Keystone’s demands. Keystone XL clearly places finance over environmental safety as they applied for (then temporarily withdrew) an application for exemptions to the rules that would allow them to make the pipe thinner in rural areas and yet pump at above currently permissible levels. However, they may reapply for this “special permit” later as they seek lower costs at the expense of the public. We cannot allow this to happen. The social costs of tar sands oil production is far too high and the benefits far too small. The expansion of this extremely dirty energy undermines what progress has been made in cleaning America’s energy consumption. While we should be cultivating clean energy production, the dirtiest energy production is being expanded.

Keystone XL needs a presidential permit to build this international pipeline. This is a point of vulnerability. Throughout the summer Public Citizen has been organizing individuals and groups to attend various meetings, hearings, and conferences. The U.S. State Department has held public hearings on its Draft EIS and we have urged others to take the opportunity to raise their voice.

Our efforts at getting such groups together continue as we move further down the proposed pipeline into the Houston area, reactivating allies and making new ones as we work together to stop a pipeline that is proposed to travel near sensitive areas such as the Big Thicket National Preserve. This pipeline only adds to Texas’ clean air problems and by stopping it in Texas we can change the momentum on a rapidly growing dirty industry. Future infrastructure development should be dedicated to renewable, clean energy – not dirtier energy than what we already have.

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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TransCanada, a pipeline company out of Canada, wants to build a pipeline to bring the dirtiest kind of oil in the world from tar sands mines in Alberta, Canada to refineries in Houston and Beaumont. This oil is many times dirtier than conventional crude and allowing Houston area refineries to process it would increase air pollution throughout the region. The tar sands mines in Alberta are devastating the Boreal forest ecosystem, laying waste to a region the size of Florida and poisoning the people who live downstream. The first permit this pipeline needs is the Presidential Permit, which goes through the State Department. The comment period on this project is open until July 2 – to submit comments online go here. For more information on tar sands oil visit dirtyoilsands.org and to stay updated on tar sands news in Texas keep coming back here to Texas Vox, and visit our main webpage on tar sands here. (more…)

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