Posts Tagged ‘transcanada’

TransCanada has begun construction of the southern Keystone XL in Oklahoma and Texas. and while they tried to keep it quiet, the Tar Sands Blockade is there to greet them.

TransCanada is carelessly moving forward with construction and trying to keep it quiet. Important legal cases are still pending regarding their use of eminent domain, and they have failed to conduct environmental review of the southern Keystone XL pipeline route.


Texas Landowner Halts TransCanada Surveyors in Their Tracks          

TransCanada plans to clear-cut countless acres of East Texas forest in order to pipe tar sands oil across rivers, streams, and land that many landowners are claiming was seized via an abuse of eminent domain and contract fraud — all to export oil overseas.

TransCanada’s last pipeline spilled 12 times in its first 12 months of operation. During a summer of record heat, and an unprecedented drought, the last thing Texas needs is a tar sands pipeline that could ruin valuable water supplies with toxic oil spills.

In order to halt the onslaught of this international company’s plans to pillage their way across the landscape of the great state of Texas, we have learned that the Tar Sands Blockade, a grassroots-led campaign using non-violent civil disobedience, has initiated a plan to stop construction of the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline. They have organized landowners, environmentalists, tea partiers, occupiers and more to stop this disaster-in-the-making in imaginative ways.

The following video shows folks from around the country telling you why they are joining the Tar Sands Blockade.


To follow the Tar Sands Blockade, check them out on their facebook page. http://www.facebook.com/TarSandsBlockade

We hope to post more about this action in the coming days.

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Statement of Trevor Lovell, Environmental Program Coordinator,  Public Citizen’s Texas Office

It is unfortunate that President Barack Obama has decided to ignore news stories in Business Week, the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg News and Financial Post, among others, explaining in simple terms how the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline will raise gas prices for American consumers.

Public Citizen has long warned about Keystone’s health and safety risks, the environmental devastation associated with tar sands mining and its disproportionate impact on global climate change, and the unconscionable contributions to local air pollution in Port Arthur, Texas. Port Arthur is one of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) “Environmental Justice Showcase Communities” due to a concentration of environmental health risks that disproportionally burden minority communities.

But Keystone XL also poses another risk – a risk to U.S. consumers and the fragile economic recovery. Analysts and economists agree that building the southern leg of this pipeline will alleviate a glut of oil in Cushing, Okla., and allow more oil products to be exported to other countries, thereby reducing domestic supply and raising gas prices.

The southern leg of this pipeline does not bring oil into the country (a goal our organization does not endorse), but does create a clear path to get oil out to export markets. Since refined oil products are now the largest export commodity in the U.S., it is obvious that pushing more oil to the Gulf Coast will result in more export activity and less supply for Americans.

Today, Public Citizen renews its call for the president and relevant agencies to treat this pipeline as a tar sands pipeline. As construction has not yet begun, it would be imprudent to build the pipeline when we anticipate new findings from a congressionally mandated study on the unique dangers of tar sands pipelines, which may inform new regulations for this industry.

Texas may be an oil and gas state, but the health and safety of our citizens is no less important than it is anywhere else. Our water resources are threatened now more than ever, and this pipeline would cross the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer in East Texas, which serves 60 counties and as many as 12 million people. When the presidential permit was denied earlier this year, the inadequate study of threats to Nebraskan water resources was cited as a central concern. Apparently water resources in Texas do not require the same kind of thorough review. Texans deserve protection from our elected and appointed leaders, and today President Obama has shown he is ready to sacrifice that protection for election-year politics.


Below is a statement issued by Independent Texans by Julia Triggs Crawford

Response from Julia Trigg Crawford to President Obama’s support for TransCanada’s Keystone Pipeline Project

Julia Trigg Crawford, a Texas farmer who is challenging TransCanada’s use of eminent domain to take an easement across her property for TransCanada’s Keystone pipeline, issued the following statement in response to President Obama’s Thursday morning press conference in Cushing, OK:

“Today President Obama indicated he’s taking an “All of the Above” strategy to his energy policy, and in doing so will expedite the Cushing to Houston leg of TransCanada’s pipeline. While his decision was not unexpected, it is disappointing that this issue continues to be a political football during this election game.”

“Where I come from you’re only as good as your word, and I am proud to stand by my principles no matter the pressure that’s applied. And there’s no doubt about it, TransCanada’s applying pressure anywhere they can, from Washington D.C. to small towns along the proposed pipeline route, and not everyone can hold up.”

“I stand by my belief that TransCanada illegally asserts that its pipeline is a common carrier and is for the public good. My attorneys tell me we have a strong case and we are eagerly awaiting our day in court. Should we win, and I wouldn’t be in this fight if I didn’t think we would, I hope that our case will give strength to other landowners who are still fighting for their property, and to those being bullied by a company falsely wielding the club of eminent domain.”

“I’m just a farmer caring for a piece of good Texas earth, up against a foreign corporation with the power to bend the will of a President, so I’m under no delusion that this will be easy. I am reaching out to my fellow Americans and anyone who believes in an individual’s right to private property to help me in this fight. You can go to www.standwithjulia.com to take action and to contribute to our legal defense fund so that we can face TransCanada on an even playing field.”

“So here is my “All of the Above“ strategy. Stand by one’s principles, hold onto and protect those property rights afforded to every American by the United States Constitution, and never bow to pressure that runs contrary to the promises you’ve made”.

“Thank you and God bless.”
Julie Triggs Crawford

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Rally in Paris Texas
Citizens gather on the steps of the Lamar County Courthouse in support of Julia Triggs Crawford before the TransCanada suit to dismiss her Temporary Restraining Order is heard.

Last week, local citizens from areas bordering the path of the proposed Texas leg of the TransCanada tar sands pipeline, rallied in front of the Lamar County Courthouse where a hearing was scheduled, pitting the Canadian corporation, TransCanada, against a local landowner, Julia Triggs Crawford. The crowd then packed the courtroom leaving standing room only.

Ms. Crawford had asked for a standstill order while in negotiation on her eminent domain case, but TransCanada’s representatives told her they wanted the right to start trenching on her property as early as March 1st.

On Monday, February 13th, Ms. Crawford obtained a restraining order against TransCanada to protect her property.  Within 24 hours, TransCanada in turn filed for the restraining order to be dissolved.  The hearing was held in the Lamar County courthouse  in Paris, Tx on Friday, Feb. 17 starting at 10 a.m. before Judge Bill Harris.


Rally in Paris, Texas on the steps of the Lamar County Courthouse (video by David McFatridge)

In the hearing on Friday, the attorneys for TransCanada displayed what many called an arrogance at the thought of one landowner and her rights, or even the archaeological significance of the property as a means of stopping their project, saying “We will not let one landowner stop this multi-billion dollar pipeline,” and again saying ““They can have their day in court, but they won’t stop this pipeline.”

In the end, Judge Harris handed the Paris area landowner a temporary victory in setting a date of April 30, 2012 for a jury trial to hear her case against TransCanada and their efforts to steal her land away from her for the Keystone Pipeline.

At a rally in Austin, in support of Ms. Crawford’s efforts, the organizations are Independent Texans, Texans for Accountable Government and Texans Uniting for Reform spoke up about the bullying tactics used by TransCanada.

“Everyone wants to know, by what authority or permit does this private, foreign company have the right to condemn property and start construction? We are going to tell TransCanada, don’t mess with Texans, don’t mess with our landowners,” commented Linda Curtis of Independent Texans.

TransCanada’s Keystone XL permit was denied by the president, so the groups and landowners question by what permit or authority does TransCanada take property or start any kind of tar sand pipeline construction?   TransCanada, despite the denial of a permit, continues to bully landowners and execute eminent domain condemnation proceedings. Groups are questioning this company’s right to take land via eminent domain.  The Railroad Commission has stated that it does not have the authority to grant the power of  eminent domain to TransCanada.  Ms. Crawford has also challenged the company’s common carrier status.

Ms. Crawford’s case is emblematic of the continuing struggle along with more than 80 cases in Texas where TransCanada, a foreign pipeline company, has condemned or threatened to condemn private property belonging to Texans.

“This is a private company taking land for private use and foreign profit.  They are cloaking themselves in common carrier regalia and exercising eminent domain against Texas citizens but there is no evidence that they have the legal authority to seize property in Texas,” noted Debra Medina former gubernatorial candidate and director of We Texans.

“We are telling this private, foreign company  ‘Don’t Mess with Texas'”,  “Don’t bully Texans, putting our land and our water at risk,” while this foreign company continues to masquerade as a common carrier.


This is the complete event video of protest and press conference by several Texas organizations representing landowners to show their support of Julia Trigg Crawford of Lamar County whose property has been condemned by TransCanada for their XL pipeline even though the federal permit has been denied.  The organizations are Independent Texans, Texans for Accountable Government and Texans Uniting for Reform

Click here to read the Texas Attorney General’s landowners bill of rights in any attempt by the government or a private entity to take your property.

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Earlier this week, a new statewide coalition of groups and advocates for private property rights announced its support for landowners along the path of the Keystone XL pipeline in Texas. The groups charge that TransCanada, the company proposing to build the pipeline, has used eminent domain to bully landowners and condemn private property.

Despite a presidential permit denied to TransCanada for the Keystone XL project just weeks ago, the company continues to bully and pressure landowners along the Texas pipeline route.

The controversial Keystone XL pipeline would carry tar sands crude more than 1900 miles through six states including Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.  In Texas, the pipeline crosses eighteen counties, from Paris to Pt. Arthur.  Groups with landowners near the cities of Paris, Winnsboro, and Wells joined in press events held in Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, and Houston to ask for support from agencies and officials on the continuing plight of landowners who would be impacted by the pipeline.

“Texas, we have an eminent domain problem,” said Terri Hall, director of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF). “There is absolutely zero oversight for pipeline companies that want to take private property from Texans – all you have to do is check the right box on a form and declare yourself a common carrier, no questions asked.”

The form Hall refers to is a T4 permit application filed with the Texas Railroad Commission. In a recent Texas Supreme Court case, Texas Rice Land Partners, Ltd. and Mike Latta vs. Denbury Green Pipeline-Texas LLC , the court effectively revoked the eminent domain authority of the pipeline builder, holding that “Private property cannot be imperiled… by checking a certain box on a one-page government form.”  In order to be a common carrier, a company needs to satisfy the question if it is purposed for public use.  The pipeline company in this case did not meet the criteria of “common carrier” , as it was merely a private company transporting product to one of its own subsidiaries, therefore, not meeting the criteria of operating for public use or the public good.  There is a real question as to whether the private entity TransCanada Keystone XL meets those same criteria.

The ruling has been hailed as a major victory for private property rights in Texas. Advocates like Hall and former Republican gubernatorial candidate Debra Medina say that conservative politicians have campaigned on the issue but have done too little for property owners.

“Texas politicians talk tough on eminent domain, but with Keystone we have a private pipeline company acting as a ‘common carrier’ and bludgeoning private property owners with eminent domain while many of our Republican leaders cheer from the sidelines,” said Medina who is also director of We Texans.

“Despite the fact that this permit has been denied and there technically is no permit for TransCanada, the company continues to bully and pressure Texas landowners,” Medina noted.  “And we would all like to ask, by what authority does this company have to continue insisting that landowners settle with them when there is no permit?”

Linda Curtis of Independent Texans, who helped coordinate groups in 2006 supporting Carole Strayhorn’s independent gubernatorial bid and the anti-Trans-Texas Corridor efforts said, “A similar statewide grassroots movement is waiting in the wings on this issue because the problems are way too familiar to east Texans who fought to stop the land grab for the TTC.”

Medina and Hall held press events in Houston and San Antonio respectively, standing with landowners who say they’ve been bullied by TransCanada. Former DISH, TX mayor Calvin Tillman hosted a similar event in Dallas, and in Austin, Independent Texans director Linda Curtis and Jessica Ellison of Texans for Accountable Government spoke.

Landowners attending the events have property condemned or are being pushed into negotiated settlements and claim their story has not been told. Landowners say theirs are among more than 80 cases in Texas where TransCanada, a private foreign pipeline company, condemned private property belonging to Texans.

“At this moment my property is condemned and legally TransCanada can lay that pipeline and pump undisclosed chemicals through it, even though we’ve never seen a judge,” said Julia Trigg Crawford of Lamar County. “I think most Texans would be stunned to find out that there is no process for challenging eminent domain use
in a pipeline case until after your land has already been condemned.”

Crawford is challenging TransCanada’s right to common carrier and eminent domain in her case.  TransCanada’s representatives indicate they want to settle with the Crawfords out of court.  However, they insist on retaining the right to begin construction/trenching as soon as March 1, 2012.

“We need our officials to stand up and help these landowners,” commented Calvin Tillman, former Mayor of Dish.  “Currently the Railroad Commission and other state agencies are passing the buck, claiming they have no authority over Keystone wanting to build a segment from Cushing to the Texas coast.  Where are our legislators?  Where are the authorities to protect Texas landowners from private companies like TransCanada?”

The group also pointed out that the company misled landowners in other situations, telling property owners the pipeline had all necessary permits and repeatedly telling individual landowners that they were the last holdouts, making the pipeline seem inevitable and securing more favorable terms for the company.

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Foreign Pipeline Owners Find a Way to Get Around Federal Permit Process

TransCanada is attempting to outsmart the State Department and bypass federal blocks by using two existing pipelines of poison after the State Department and President Obama delayed approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline permit amidst concerns about bias, conflicts of interest, and environmental issues,  If implemented the pipeline of poison will pose serious threats to Texas water resources that supply 12 million in East Texas and the Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston metropolises, and our climate.  The groups are urging Texans to contact their local and state officials and ask them to stop the pipelines of poison.

“TransCanada is attempting to mislead the public and circumvent the regulatory mandates of Presidential approval, environmental review and public participation,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of the Texas office of Public Citizen.  “They are now proposing to connect their Gulf Coast Segment (from Cushing, OK to Port Arthur and Houston, TX) into the end of their existing Keystone 1 pipeline.  Make that foreign tar sands corporations – 1: the United States – 0.”

“We also believe that Enbridge also plans to do the same by connecting their proposed Wrangler pipeline that runs from Cushing, OK to Houston TX to their existing Spearhead pipeline system that runs from Canada to Cushing, OK. It would be a serious mistake to allow these pipelines to carry toxic tar sands across Texas land,” continued Smith.

Threats to Texas Water Sources

These two pipelines of poison – TransCanada’s Gulf Coast Segment and Enbridge’s Wrangler – would pose serious threats to Texas water resources, including aquifers, drinking and agricultural water resources for up to 12 million Texans in Dallas, Houston and East Texas.

Tar Sands Pipeline Affected Texas WaterwaysTransCanada’s pipeline would cross the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer, the Trinity Aquifer and the Gulf Coast Aquifer.  It would traverse 16 large rivers several of which are listed as sensitive and protected, and cross over more than 130 designated floodplain areas in Texas.  These rivers and drainages feed 21 lakes and municipal reservoirs, including Pat Mayse Lake, Lake Tyler and Lake Cypress Springs.

“TransCanada’s Keystone 1 pipeline has already leaked 14 times in its first year,” said Chris Wilson, a chemical engineering consultant for opponents of the pipeline.  “How can we trust them to build it better and not endanger the waterways in Texas?”

In 2011, one of Enbridge’s pipelines leaked over 1 million gallons of tar sands into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan.  Clean-up efforts have cost over $700 million, it’s still not cleaned-up and people and animals are sick and communities are poisoned.

“Sadly, this is what happens when there are no federal pipeline safety regulations and effective cleanup procedure for toxic tar sands spills,” continued Ms. Wilson.  “Tar sands are not like crude oil which floats on water, they are heavier and they sink, making cleanup much more difficult if not impossible.  Congress should protect the public and put an immediate halt on all tar sands pipelines until studies are completed, safety regulations are enacted and effective spill remediation procedures are put in place.”

Other Threats to Texas

“Despite the fact that TransCanada and Enbridge imply that they might not have to undergo environmental review our analysis has identified several major environmental hazards and key red flags to the project that are cause for concern and require addressing,” said Karen Hadden, Executive Director of the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition.  “These include:

  • Toxic spills that would threaten drinking and agricultural water resources for up to 12 million Texans in Dallas, Houston and East Texas;
  • Exposure to benzene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons(PAH’S) and heavy metals;
  • Increases in toxic refinery emissions, greenhouse gases, climate change and associated Environmental Justice issues in the end of market refinery communities in Texas;
  • Increases in refinery wastewater toxicity, toxic solid waste volume and spent catalyst toxicity ;
  • Lack of federal safety pipeline standards and spill remediation standards for tar sands pipelines;
  • Drought and wildfire in Texas;
  • Lack of Emergency Response Plans for volunteer fire departments to address pipeline fires; and
  • Eminent domain abuses, threats and bullying of TX landowners.”

Threats to the Health of Texans

The crude oil that would flow through the pipeline is known as diluted bitumen, or dilbit.  Federal safety officials don’t know precisely which chemicals TransCanada mixes with bitumen to create dilbit, including the levels of benzene used in the diluents. And even industry groups can’t say exactly how corrosive dilbit is.

“The U.S. EPA raised serious health risks over benzene in the diluents in a June 2011 letter to the U.S. State Department based on ambient air data at the Kalamazoo river spill”, stated Dr. Neil Carman, Clean Air Program Director of the Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter.  “In a tar sands pipeline spill Benzene easily volatilizes into the air at ambient temperatures allowing inhalation exposure to occur, its toxicity results in immediate health effects in the low parts per billion range.  Benzene also poses a water contamination risk at low concentrations.”

“These characteristics make benzene the most dangerous chemical to human health in a tar sands pipeline spill because it is a known human carcinogenic agent,” Carman emphasized.  “Short-term benzene exposures may cause a variety of health effects, including nausea, vomiting, dizziness, narcosis, reduction in blood pressure, and central nervous system depression as reported in Michigan from the Kalamazoo tar sands spill in July 2010 where high levels (15,000 parts per billion) were measured in the air.”

Finally, Carman noted that, “Tar sands bitumen contains 11X more sulfur and nickel, 5X more lead, and higher levels of other toxic substances (arsenic, chromium, vanadium, boron, and zinc) compared to conventional crude oil.”  Carman concluded, “The higher toxicity of tar sands bitumen will result in increased toxic emissions in refinery communities already overburdened with too much air pollution where environmental justice issues have been ignored by the state and the oil firms.”

Threats to Air Quality and Climate Change

NASA’s James Hansen, a leading climate scientist who rang the first alarm bells nearly 30 years ago, has called the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline “game over” for the climate.

According to a recent US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) assessment, tar sands emissions are approximately twice those of conventional oil, making tar sands well-to-tank emissions approximately 82% higher than conventional oil.

“Tar sands oil is far dirtier than conventional crude oil,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas office.  “This will significantly increase emissions from Houston and Beaumont refineries, which will further put the region beyond the ability to meet federal air quality standards.”

“The DFW area won’t fare much better as pumps are situated at 20- to 100-mile-intervals along the length of the pipeline to “push” the tar sands crude,” continued Smith. “Pipeline pumps may be powered by burning diesel or natural gas, or by using electricity (which may come from burning natural gas or coal at power plants that feed the area).  This will add to the emissions blowing into the DFW area.”

What Can Be Done If Foreign Corporations Circumvent U.S. Regulatory Process

Texans should contact their elected officials regarding their concerns about TransCanada’s Gulf Coast and Enbridge’s Wrangler proposed tar sands pipelines and they should ask their elected officials to join together to protect Texans from the dangers of toxic tar sands pipeline spills and impacts to end-of-market refinery communities.  The Texas Legislature needs to study tar sands, hold interim hearing about tar sands and work together with their constituents to assure that Texans water, air, land and health are not harmed by toxic tar sands.


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Public Citizen joins Texas pipeline opponents in applauding the Obama administration’s decision for a “re-do” on the environmental impact statement and routing decisions for the proposed TransCanada tarsands pipeline.

This is a decision that came quickly on the heels of the U.S. State Department’s Inspector General’s announcement that they were launching an investigation into the alledged bias and conflict of interest citizen’s had complained about in the hearing process.  Click here to read our earlier blog.  At the hearing in Austin, after speakers who had been there for hours were cut off, one man was arrested for complaining about the process (Click here to read that blog post) and many at that hearing were questioning the facilitators about who they were and what exactly was their relationship to the State Department.

“The U.S. State Department’s contractor Cardno Entrix had severe conflicts of interests and their bias showed. They ignored the potential damages to our drinking water, air safety and climate in the Texas section of their environmental impact statement. The hearings they held on the plan were unfair and biased against opponents. Instead of fair hearings – opponents were cut off, the hearings were ended before the witnesses were heard, and those who objected were arrested,” said David Daniel, a land owner whose property lies along the pipeline route through Texas.

“Texas will be the state most endangered by leaks from the pipeline and the pollution from refining. We don’t need this pipeline or any additional proposed diluted bitumen pipeline, Texas refinery communities are already over-burdened by toxic refinery pollution and environmental justice concerns arise from further burdens to these end of market refinery communities in Texas,” said Chris Wilson, a chemical engineer working with Public Citizen in opposing the pipeline.

Ms. Wilson continued, “We don’t need this pipeline, and shouldn’t be running the risk for the temporary jobs it will create. This pause will allow us to rationally review the risks.”

Political experts are postulating that the Obama administration, the Canadian government and TransCanada made the mistake of glossing over the environmental issues in their haste to push this project through.

However, as the political pressure on his administration grew and consious that they didn’t want environmentalists staying home on election day, Obama himself acknowledged the health and environmental risks.

“Folks in Nebraska, like all across the country, aren’t going to say to themselves, ‘We’ll take a few thousand jobs if it means our kids are potentially drinking water that would damage their health,’” Obama said in Nov. 2 interview with Nebraska TV station KETV. “We don’t want, for example, aquifers to be adversely affected.

The delay is an opportunity for a more “sober” and“rigorous” assessment of the pipeline on all sides, outside of the politicized climate of a presidential election campaign and we think it needs to made clear here that that any costs this puts on TransCanada are their own fault for lobbying to diminish oversight and cut corners in the permitting process. They took a chance hoping it would reduce their costs and it ended up backfiring because the corner cutting was too egregious and caused thus delay.

The risks taken by TransCanada were not the government’s concern, the health and well being of its citizens are their concern. In free markets risks are sometimes punished and sometimes rewarded.

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Austinites rally outside campaign headquarters in solidarity with 12,000 in DC

Protestors spell out their message. “SAY NO TO TARSANDS!” – Photo by Don Mason  (http://ow.ly/7nbjY)

AUSTIN, TX – Campaign staff and volunteers working for  President Obama’s re-election got an earful from environmentalists in Austin on  Monday, one day after 12,000 people encircled the White House in Washington DC to protest the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

“He has given every indication that this decision is his to make,” said Hope Philips, one of the protestors at the rally. “So we’re here to  tell him to stick to his campaign promises and ‘end the tyranny of oil.’”

Many of the signs at both protests featured quotes from President Obama’s 2008 campaign when he made bold claims about reducing oil dependence to the delight of young voters and environmentalists.

Protestor holding the President to his own words

Between chants protestors celebrated signs their actions are making headway in the fight against the tar sands pipeline.

“Just today the inspector general of the US State Department agreed to investigate the environmental assessment process. The relationships between TransCanada and the State Department were too cozy resulting in a deeply flawed process,” said Chris Wilson, a retired chemical engineer who recently authored a report criticizing the State Department’s environmental  impact study.

The Austin protest drew out about 50 people who directed
their voices towards the campaign’s offices inside a small building on the  corner of East 6th and Navasota St. During the protest two representatives from the group were invited in to speak with Hector Nieto, Texas director of  Obama for America.

“It was a good conversation and I think the local and state leaders get why this is an important issue,” said Adam Hammick, one of the two representatives and a volunteer with 350.org. “They promised to take our message straight to the top of the campaign food chain, so we hope the message gets through to the President.”

Monday’s protest comes only a week after a widely reported “oil zombie” themed Halloween protest at City Hall, and organizers show no signs of slowing down. On Saturday November 12th they plan to join forces with Occupy Austin to hold a march on Citigroup who they accuse of helping to fund tar sands giant TransCanada. Then on November 28th they plan to return to the campaign headquarters along with organizers in all 50 states who will be demonstrating outside of local campaign offices.

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Four environmental groups are preparing a lawsuit that alleges the Obama administration has not adequately studied how the proposed Keystone XL oil sands pipeline would affect several endangered species.

The Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council and Nebraska Wildlife Federation sent a formal notice of intent to sue Thursday to the State Department – which is heading the federal review of the project – and several other agencies stating, “State and [the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service] have failed to conduct formal consultation to consider the effects of the Keystone XL Pipeline project (Project) to the Whooping Crane, Interior Least Tern, Piping Plover, Western Prairie Fringed Orchid, Pallid Sturgeon, and Arkansas River Shiner.”

The State Department picked a company called Cardno Entrix to help carry out the environmental impact statement on the Keystone pipeline.  Cardno Entrix listed among its chief clients …TransCanada.  And this apparent conflict puts in question the final report that came out in late August, stating the pipeline would have “no significant impact” on the nearby land and water resources.  The State Department hopes to make a final decision by the end of the year and the letter of notice of intent to sue is designed to ensure the option to litigate if the permit is issued.

The groups, in the letter, allege the “biological assessment” prepared alongside the EIS and a subsequent “biological opinion” prepared by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service were shoddy in their analysis of the pipeline’s effect on the species and that the unduly narrow analysis omits impacts such as the effects of habitat fragmentation from the Pipeline’s pump sites, construction camps, and power lines.”

The planned lawsuit comes in addition to separate, ongoing litigation by three other groups: the Center for Biological Diversity, the Western Nebraska Resources Council and Friends of the Earth.

That litigation, filed in a Nebraska federal court, was expanded through an amended complaint this week that alleges the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service “unreasonably and unlawfully concurred that the Pipeline is ‘not likely to adversely affect’ endangered and threatened species.”

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Tar Sands Pipeline Protest By Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images

As thousands rally against the 1,900-mile Keystone XL oil pipeline from the Alberta tar sands which would stretch through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma to Texas, Transcanada’s special access to State Department officials have some wondering if special influences will have more sway than concerns about human health and safety in the decision to permit this project – click here to read an update about the cost of cleaning up a tar sands spill into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan.  The Guardian writes about State Department concerns that mysteriously disappeared, possibly because of Transcanada’s (the proposed tar sands pipeline operator) special access to high level State Department officials.

In June of 2010, in the midst of the BP Gulf oil disaster, someone deep in the bowels of the U.S. State Department was considering a two-year delay in the Keystone XL pipeline project, according to documents released last week. Public concerns about the oil industry were peaking, and the $7 billion Canada-to-Texas oil sands pipeline, which had looked like a shoo-in at the beginning of 2010, was getting a closer look.

At one point, the State Department even asked a lawyer for TransCanada, the Alberta-based company that was trying to get a federal permit to build the pipeline, to provide an assessment of how such a delay would impact the company.

What happened to that request—or to the idea of possibly delaying federal approval of the pipeline—remains a mystery, crucial to understanding the decision-making process behind one of the biggest energy projects pending before the Obama administration. The pipeline would allow an enormous supply of a particularly dirty form of oil, locked up in Alberta’s tar sands, to reach refineries in the Gulf of Mexico and markets around the world.

Documents show that TransCanada had special access to key State Department officials during this delicate period, when the future of the company’s most important project hung in the balance.

To read the complete story, click here.

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Over 260,000 Americans have told the State Department that they do not want the Keystone XL Tar Sands pipeline to receive a permit. After two recent spills (and averaging one a month) on the 1 year old Keystone pipeline (Keystone XL would extend that pipeline into Texas) it seems obvious that Americans are waking up to just how bad this project is.

Check out KETK for their recent story on the spill and overview of the project.

The State Department will decide soon on whether or not to grant this project the necessary “presidential permit” it needs for construction from Canada down through the central US. The future of energy lies in renewable energy – and that is where we should be investing in new infrastructure. This pipeline takes us in exactly the opposite direction towards a dirtier and more destructive fossil fuel. Contact your congressman and ask them to pressure the White House and State Department not to grant this permit.


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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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In a three part series, Elizabeth McGowan of Solve Climate News writes how some U.S. landowners along the Keystone XL route say they are being ‘pushed around’ and ‘intimidated’ by TransCanada, an accusation the energy giant denies.  To read Ms. McGowan’s story “Is Keystone XL Impervious to Lawsuits?” click on the parts below.

Part I, Holding Out in Oklahoma – Monday, February 28th

Part II, Defining Good Faith – Tuesday, March 1st

Part III, Why Is TransCanada a ‘Common Carrier? – Wednesday, March 2nd

This should be of concern to Texans along the Keystone XL pipeline proposed route as Texas lawmakers this session are considering emergency legislation that would strengthen the position of private companies in eminent domain cases.  If the legislation is passed (SB 18 – click here to read a copy of the legislation), we could see a whole network of new pipelines snaking across areas of northeast and east Texas as natural gas companies expand their fracking projects and the Canadian Keystone XL company pushes the tar sands pipeline from Western and Central Canada, down through the middle of the country on its way to crude refineries in the Houston area.

Check out our earlier blog, Eminent Domain: Coming to Your Town Soon? , to see what is happening in Texas that could impact Texas landowners.

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It’s been a while since a status update has been given on the Keystone XL pipeline project here at Public Citizen so the time has come!

The Keystone pipeline project is Canadian initiated undertaking involving both TransCanada and ConocoPhillips.  The pipeline is set out to be about 1380 miles long and the pipe itself is projected to be about 36 inches in diameter.  The Keystone pipeline will enter the United States from Alberta, Canada through Montana, cross through South Dakota and Nebraska to send its 700,000 barrels/day supply into stations in Oklahoma and East Texas.  In doing so, this means the pipeline would be crossing 554 acres of wetlands and 91 streams that support either recreational or commercial fisheries.

The Keystone pipeline will also run right through the Ogallala Aquifer, meaning potential damage to one of the country’s largest sources of water if a spill should occur.  Dirty Oil Picture And we all know how easy it can be for an oil spill to occur.  (see the recent WSJ article on the BP Alaskan pipeline leak)

In fact, TransCanada is supposed to construct the actual pipes to be made out of a thinner material, but the oil will be pumped at a higher pressure than normal, which increases the risks of spills even more.  The last thing we need is another BP disaster in the gulf or pipeline leak in Alaska.  But suppose you say, “So what, what’s another oil spill?”  Well, it just so happens that this pipeline will be transporting some of the dirtiest oil in the world.

This type of oil, known as tar sands oil, produces more global warming pollution than our normal conventional oil, 20% more to be exact.  It also makes conventional oil seem pretty darn clean.  Tar sands oil is full of toxic and harmful materials not only dangerous to the environment but the health of the communities surrounding the pipelines are endangered  as well.  Producing this oil for the Keystone XL will essentially result in the emittance of 11 million more tons of carbon dioxide. (more…)

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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.


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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Keystone XL

TransCanada's map for the proposed pipeline.

While the Department of Energy took a step towards cutting the emissions of the state by approving a Carbon Capture and Storage project for Texas which will start early next year, a nasty tar-sand Pipeline is set to penetrate through Texas land and be completed by late 2011. The first segment of the line which extends from Alberta to Illinois has already been completed and will be functioning next month. The second segment (Texas and Oklahoma) of the Keystone XL line will be built by the Canadian oil and pipeline company, TransCanada.

The line will end in Houston, where the crude oil will be refined. In addition to the fact that pipelines are not the safest to be around as we saw a couple of them blow up just in the past week, the line will carry tar-sands, one of the dirtiest sources of oil. This source of oil is estimated to have as much as three times more emissions than other oil sources when produced, keep in mind that it will be refined in Houston, a city that is already in non attainment of federal air quality standards.

TransCanada also applied for a special permit to build the line thinner than what the standards require. The segment already built in Illinois was approved for using a thinner pipe, a method which the United Steelworkers had warned last year that it “would increase the risks of ruptures, leaks and spills and lessen pipeline safety by the use of thinner pipe and greater operating pressure.” State Department approval for the Texas-Oklahoma segment is pending.


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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