Posts Tagged ‘state department’

Blog post by Vanessa Ramos and Max Anderson

2014-03-07 No KXL Austin March

KXL protesters march to the Austin Club
Photo by Kaiba White

The heat has been turning up on the State Department and President Obama this past week from KXL Dissent. Nearly 400 youth were arrested while protesting against the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline in front of the White House this past weekend, which was the largest youth act of non-violent civil disobedience at the White House in more than a generation. On Monday, nine people were arrested at the State Department building in San Francisco during a youth led protest of the Keystone XL pipeline. The momentum to stop this climate-killing pipeline has been building all across the country, and yesterday people in Austin made their stand against toxic tar sands.

People gathered at the south gates of the Texas Capitol and marched to Austin Club to have a welcoming demonstration for Canadian Ambassador Gary Doer, who was in town to give a speech promoting the Keystone XL pipeline, among other things.  Public Citizen, Sierra Club, Austin Climate Action Network, and Environment Texas organized the event, but opposition to the pipeline extends well beyond environmental groups and includes many conservative landowners.

Banner pointing to the Austin Club Photo by Kaiba White

Banner pointing to the Austin Club
Photo by Kaiba White

Banners hung from the parking garage next door to the Austin Club greeted the protesters.  People carried signs and marched to the sounds of djembe, pots and pans, cornet and chanting.

Attendees for Ambassador Doer’s luncheon had to walk through the crowd of about 30 chanting protesters who formed a picket line in front of the entrance.

2014-03-07 No KXL Austin ProtestYesterday marked the end of the public comment period with the State Department for the Keystone XL pipeline. This was the last chance for citizens to officially weigh in on the issue. President Obama still has 60 more days to hear from the different government departments as to whether they think the pipeline will be in our national interest. President Obama is expected to make a final decision on whether or not to approve the pipeline by the middle of summer.

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KXL Climate ChangeThe deadline is fast approaching for the public’s last chance to register an official comment against the Keystone XL pipeline. The State Department’s public comment period will end on Friday, March 7th. Right now is your last chance to tell Secretary of State John Kerry that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is not in our national interest. Secretary Kerry’s opinion will weigh heavily in President Obama’s decision.

This is our final opportunity to officially weigh in on the decision. Submit a comment right now to tell the Obama Administration that the “game over for the climate” Keystone XL pipeline is NOT in our national interest.

Now President Obama must choose whether he wants to take us down the road of expanding the use of dirty fossil fuels, like tar sands, or fight for a sustainable future. The Keystone XL is central to increasing production of the Alberta tar sands, which will significantly add to carbon emissions. The massive infrastructure would lock us into dependence on this dirty fuel for decades to come. Last June, standing in the sweltering heat before an outdoor audience at Georgetown University, President Obama pledged that he would not approve the pipeline if it would “significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.” Now, he should reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

Keystone XL Youth Protest in Washington D.C. Photo credit: Nicholas Kammafp, Getty Images

March 2nd Keystone XL Youth Protest in Washington D.C
Photo credit: Nicholas Kammafp, Getty Images

From Coast-to-Coast People Are Standing Up Against Tar Sands 

  • Last Sunday, more than 1,200 youths from across the country marched from Georgetown University to the White House to protest the Keystone XL. Nearly 400 youths were arrested for zip-tying themselves to the White House fence and staging a mock oil spill. This protest is the largest youth act of non-violent civil disobedience in front of the White House in more than a generation.
  • On Monday, nine people were arrested at the State Department building in San Francisco during a youth led protest of the Keystone XL pipeline.
  • Last month, thousands of people got together and held more than 280 vigils in 49 states across the country to say NO to Keystone XL.

Crash the Keystone XL Party: No KXL in ATX

The momentum to stop this pipeline is building all across the country. On Friday, March 7th, Austin will join Washington D.C. and San Francisco in telling President Obama that we do not want the Keystone XL. Join us at 10:30 a.m. at the South Gates of the Texas Capitol (11th and Congress). Be sure to bring your signs, pots-n-pans, walking shoes and conviction to stop this climate killing pipeline.

This is our last chance to voice concerns to the State Department before the public comment period ends on March 7th. We need to get our message across to Secretary Kerry, because what he says could be one of the biggest determining factors in President Obama’s decision.

Submit your comment: Keystone XL is NOT in our national interest.

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Enbridge storage tank - photo from Dan Riedlhuber, Reuters

Enbridge storage tank – photo by Dan Riedlhuber, Reuters

A second Canadian pipeline company has its permit tied up in the State Department’s approval process. Enbridge, Canada’s largest pipeline company, is trying to expand its Alberta Clipper line, but is now facing delays.

Enbridge started up its first phase of the line, which has a capacity of 450,000 barrels per day (bpd), in 2009, after obtaining a U.S. federal permit from the State Department. Enbridge is now looking to expand its capacity, but the State Department says it needs to do further environmental analysis before granting Enbridge the go ahead to expand its Alberta to Wisconsin pipeline.

Enbridge is not looking to build another pipeline; rather, they are trying to increase capacity by 120,000 bpd for a total of 570,000 bpd. Beyond that, they would like to expand from 570,000 bpd to 800,000 bpd in the near future, which is almost as much tar sands oil as the proposed Keystone XL would carry.

“Obviously, things take longer in this environment that we’re in. I don’t think we want to draw any conclusions about the political environment. It’s not something that we can control. What we control is the fullness of our application,” CEO Al Monaco told reporters and analysts on a conference call to discuss the company’s fourth-quarter results, which included a net loss. “In this case, this is a fairly routine matter. The pipeline’s already in the ground, so we’re hoping that we move this along as quickly as possible.”

Another Canadian pipeline company, TransCanada, has been seeking U.S. approval of their Keystone XL pipeline since 2008. The Keystone XL would cut across the heartland of America bring up to 830,000 bpd of Canadian tar sands into the U.S. The Keystone XL has become highly politicized with many environmental groups lobbying and taking direct action against the pipeline.

Although Enbridge has managed to escape the same level of scrutiny as their competitor TransCanada, they have still faced opposition from activists in Canada and Michigan.

Enbridge is also the company behind the largest on-shore oil spill in U.S. history. Enbridge spilled more than one million gallons of diluted bitumen (dilbit, or tar sands oil) into Talmadge Creek in Marshall, MI, which then flowed 30 miles downstream into the Kalamazoo River in the late summer of 2010. Enbridge has spent nearly a billion dollars trying to clean up the spill over the last three years, but latest reports confirm that there is still oil in the Kalamazoo River.

Enbridge also owns several other tar sands pipelines aroung the country, including the Seaway pipeline system in Texas. Enbridge is currently expanding the Seaway pipeline system by the process of twinning. The new twin Seaway line will be a 30-inch diameter pipeline, and havea capacity of 450,000 bpd. Company officials are expecting a service date in 2014.

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KXL Climate ChangeWith the release of the State Department’s Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, there has been a lot of buzz about the project. The report concluded that Keystone XL could create carbon pollution equivalent to nearly six million cars, or eight coal-fired power plants. Last Week the State Department began accepting comments from the public, and with only a few weeks (until Mar 07, 2014 11:59 PM ET) left the need for citizens to weigh in has never been more urgent. Now is the time to tell Secretary of State John Kerry that this dirty pipeline is not in our national interest.

This is our final opportunity to officially weigh in on the decision. Submit a comment right now to tell the Obama Administration that the “game over for the climate” Keystone XL pipeline is NOT in our national interest.

Here are some facts to consider including in your comment to Secretary Kerry and the State Department:

  • The evidence is clear that Keystone XL could increase production levels of tar sands oil in Alberta, and therefore significantly add to carbon emissions. The massive investment would lock us into dependence on this dirty fuel for decades, exacerbating carbon pollution just when we need to go in the other direction.
  • Beyond the effects on our climate, this dangerous pipeline would also put the water supply of millions of Americans at risk, including the precious Ogallala Aquifer, Platte and Niobrara rivers, and hundreds of individual families’ wells. After a year in which many communities were harmed by spills from existing pipelines, we cannot allow any more of the dirtiest, most toxic oil on earth to spill into our lands and waterways.
  • The jobs numbers touted by industry are exaggerated. Oil industry lobbyist and pro-pipeline politicians claim that the Keystone XL would create 20,000 to half a million jobs, but these jobs numbers are grossly exaggerated. Construction of the Keystone XL pipeline will only create about 3,900 jobs over a two year period, and after that the project would only provide jobs for 35 permanent employees and 15 temporary contractors.
  • The Keystone XL is an export pipeline. According to presentations to investors, Gulf Coast refiners plan to refine the cheap Canadian crude supplied by the pipeline into diesel and other products for export to Europe and Latin America. Proceeds from these exports are earned tax-free. Much of the fuel refined from the pipeline’s heavy crude oil will never reach U.S. drivers’ tanks. Therefore, not reducing gas prices for Americans.

This is our last chance to voice concerns to the State Department before the public comment period ends on March 7. We need to get our message across to Secretary Kerry, because what he says could be one of the biggest determining factors in President Obama’s decision.

Submit your comment: Keystone XL is NOT in our national interest.

In addition to submitting your comment electronically, comments may also be mailed directly to:

U.S. Department of State
Bureau of Energy Resources, Room 4843
Attn: Keystone XL Public Comments
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520


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President Obama’s Statement that Keystone XL Will Create 2,000 Jobs is Consistent with Cornell Study and State Department Analysis

In an interview with the New York Times July 27, 2013, President Obama asserted that construction of the Keystone XL pipeline would create approximately 2,000 jobs. The President’s claim is consistent with both the findings of the Cornell Global Labor Institute’s 2011 study on the job impacts of the project and the State Department’s latest assessment (SDEIS, March 2013).

“President Obama’s statement that the Keystone XL pipeline has relatively limited job creation potential is entirely correct,” said Sean Sweeney of the Cornell Global Labor Institute and co-author of the study. “TransCanada and the American Petroleum Institute have argued that the project will create tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of jobs, and our data revealed that these assertions were false and the job numbers highly inflated and based on flawed methodology. Cornell’s more careful and comprehensive study, as well as the State Department’s analysis, revealed that the construction of the pipeline will produce far fewer jobs than TransCanada has claimed – only about 2,000 direct construction jobs a year for the two-year life of the project.”

The Cornell report showed that the pipeline would create approximately 2,500 direct construction jobs per year over the two-year life of the project. This number was affirmed in March 2013 when the State Department used TransCanada’s own numbers to analyze the job impacts of the pipeline, based on the current project definition for Keystone XL (Canada to Steele City, NE plus two new pumping stations in KS). The State Department found that the project would employ 3,900 full-time workers for one year, or less than 2,000 workers per year, spread out over the expected two-year construction period. Nearly all of the jobs related to the project would last less than one year – 4 months, 6 months, or 8 months. Therefore, average annual employment is based on the number of construction workers multiplied by the construction period in weeks divided by 52 weeks in a year.  The President’s numbers were therefore correct.

Both Cornell’s and the State Department’s job assessments also found that only 10 – 15% of the construction workers would be hired locally – in the states where the pipeline is being constructed, and that the number of permanent jobs related to the project would be minimal – 35 permanent employees would be required for Keystone XL’s operation.

In addition to the direct construction jobs that would be created by the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, the Cornell Global Labor Institute also found that TransCanada significantly inflated the number of indirect and induced jobs that the project would create by inflating the overall project budget.  TransCanada has claimed it is a $7 billion project. It arrived at this number by including money that will be spent in Canada and funds that had already been spent in the U.S. at the time when its own commissioned study was released.

“A much smaller project budget means a lot less jobs,” says Lara Skinner, co-author of the Cornell study. “The U.S. is facing a serious unemployment problem and this problem should not be trivialized by TransCanada Corporation vastly overestimating the number of jobs that will be created by Keystone XL. I’m pleased that the President is aware of the actual job creation potential of the project, and recognizes that the minimal employment potential of the project should not be a determining factor in the decision to approve or disapprove Keystone XL.”

The Cornell Global Labor Institute study, Pipe Dreams? Jobs Gained, Jobs Lost by the Construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, is available here:

Ian Goodman and Brigid Rowan of the Goodman Group, Ltd., partnered with Sweeney and Skinner in the production of the Cornell report.

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According to TransCanada, they started construction on the southern leg of their highly controvertial tar sands pipeline on August 9th, even as a trial questioning their right to use eminent domain to take a Texas farmer’s land was scheduled to be held the following day.

At this time, Judge Bill Harris has not issued his final ruling but he did announced first thing the morning of the trial that there would not be a ruling in his courtroom on the pipeline’s status as a common carrier.  He did however, issue a writ of possession to the multinational company giving TransCanada legal possession of the Crawford family’s land and the right to begin trenching on that land at any point.  This emboldened TransCanada to issue a statement that was read on the Canadian National Broadcasting Network on Monday claiming that, “..On the issue of the common carrier status the ruling by Judge Harris reaffirms that TransCanada is a common carrier.” 

Seriously, no one has “verified” that they are a common carrier.  In fact, as far as we can tell, no one in the State of Texas takes ownership of the authority to determine if a pipeline company is a common carrier.

In Denbury Green vs. Texas Rice Land Farmers, the Texas Supreme Court recently upheld their ruling that a land owner has the legal right to challenge a pipeline company’s common carrier status. They also ruled that a pipeline company cannot conclusively acquire the right to condemn private property simply by checking the right boxes on a one-page form filed with the Railroad Commission.

Public Citizen’s Texas director, Tom ‘Smitty’ Smith, said “The answers we need may not lie ultimately in Judge Hill’s decision; the answer may be an appeals court. The final outcome will also be laid at the foot of the Texas legislature to do something about this kind of abuse. We have already begun the process of pointing out the grave inequities of companies being able to walk into the Railroad Commission saying ‘trust us, we’re a common carrier,’ and then seize eminent domain authority without the needed checks and balances or review by an authorized government agency. That needs to change with the next legislative session.”

For updates on the status of the trial and further legal action click here.

Back at the U.S. / Canadian Border

In the meantime TransCanada had to reapply for their presidential permit for a section of the planned Keystone XL pipeline from oil fields in Canada that would cross into the United States.  The earlier permit application was denied after lawmakers in Nebraska objected to original route plans that had the pipeline crossing through its environmentally sensitive sand hills region.  While Nebraska’s objection was the official reason for the permit denial, the initial process was fraught with other controversies that many are pushing to be addressed this go round.

The State Department recently announced on its website that it has chosen a new third-party contractor to conduct the next round of reviews for TransCanada’s controversial permit re-application.

The new contractor, Environmental Resources Management (ERM), replaces Cardno Entrix, a firm that was at the center of the scandal surrounding the State Department’s flawed Keystone XL review process last fall. However, while the department has hired a new contractor, it has also signaled that it will lean heavily on the flawed environmental impact statement largely prepared by Cardno Entrix on behalf of Keystone XL, a study that independent experts concluded grossly downplayed the harm the pipeline is likely to cause and failed to address the impacts on Nebraska’s environmentally sensitive sand hills region.

The State Department’s Environmental Impact Statement, largely prepared by Cardno Entrix and issued in August 2011, was widely criticized for failing to catalogue the tar sands oil pipeline’s full threats to the climate, drinking water and public health, as well as the unique and heightened spill risks of piping tar sands oil across America’s heartland.  As communities across the mid section of the country face an onslaught of extreme weather, the State Department’s review faces a key test: whether its new round of review fully considers these issues.  In the face of  a summer of unprecedented wildfires, droughts and storms, following on the heals of Texas’ unprecedented drought and heat in 2011, it is vital that climate impacts of dirty tar sands oil are taken into account and that the possibility of spills affecting water sources in areas that are prone to droughts be reviewed.

The State Department closed the public comment period for the scope of the new environmental review for the northern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline on July 30. More than 400,000 submitted comments to the agency in staunch opposition to the project.

A New York Times exposé revealed last November that the State Department had “flouted the intent of a federal law” by hiring Cardno Entrix and allowing it to drive the environmental review process while it simultaneously touted TransCanada as a “major client.” An investigation by the State Department inspector general subsequently confirmed that the department had failed to follow its own flawed contractor vetting processes. The investigation also raised fresh concerns about the department’s insufficient scientific expertise to review the pipeline’s likely impacts, adding weight to independent experts’ conclusions that the impacts study was grossly inadequate.

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In a New York Times op-ed by Bill McKibbens, he talks about the cronyism of the TransCanada tar sands play.  He makes reference to e-mails, made available by the environmental group Friends of the Earth, that show the State Department working with lobbyists to advance the interests of TransCanada, the company trying to build the Keystone XL pipeline from the tar sands of Canada through the heartland of the United States to the refineries of Texas capable of refining this highly polluting form of crude oil.

McKibbens goes on about other evidence that show, even as the State Department was supposedly carrying out a neutral evaluation of the pipeline’s environmental impact, key players were undermining the process. And when the State Department picked a consulting firm to help carry out the environmental impact statement on the Keystone pipeline, it chose a company called Cardno Entrix that listed among its chief clients …TransCanada.   It is no wonder that the final report that came out in late August, stated the pipeline would have “no significant impact” on the nearby land and water resources.

At local hearings along the pipeline route, Cardno Entrix again appeared front and center as the “facilitators” of those “public hearings.”   Click here to read our earlier blog about the Austin hearing.

Click here to read the entire New York Times Op-ed by Bill McKibben.

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Hundreds of people turned out and many waited for hours yesterday in Austin, TX to testify against the dangerous Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, which is proposed by a foreign company and threatens the health, climate and water of those living along the proposed pipeline route.

Photo by Karen Hadden of man arrested for expressing concerns about the flawed hearing process.

This pipeline would be carrying the dirtiest of oil from Canada through the heartland of American to be refined here in Texas.  The State Department sent contract facilitators who abruptly halted testimony, turning away several dozen speakers.  Federal Security and UTPD then forced people out of the room.  One man expressed concerns about the flawed process and was arrested for “criminal trespass.”

According to Karen Hadden, the Executive Director of the Sustainable and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition, “This was not a hearing, this was a farce.”  Ms. Hadden arrived and had been waiting for a couple of hours to give comments when they cut the hearing off.  Later, when she was attempting to find out what her options were for providing comments to the State Department given she was unable to do so at the hearing, she was told she must leave the premises or she would be arrested.

According to Brad Johnson of ThinkProgress

In a stunning conflict of interest, public hearings on federal approval for a proposed tar sands pipeline are being run by a contractor for the pipeline company itself. The U.S. Department of State’s public hearings along the proposed route of the TransCanada Keystone XL tar sands pipeline this week are under the purview of Cardno Entrix, a “professional environmental consulting company” that specializes in “permitting and compliance.”

Cardno is not only running the State Department hearings, but also manages the department’s Keystone XL website and drafted the department’s environmental impact statement. Comments from the public about the pipeline go not to the government, but to a cardno.com email address.

Cardno Entrix was contracted by TransCanada Keystone XL LP (“Keystone”) to do the work for the Department of State, to assist DOS in preparing the EIS and to conduct the Section 106 consultation process.

Throughout the history of the DOS review of the Keystone pipeline, the work has been conducted not by civil servants but by representatives of the pipeline company. During the Bush administration, the Department of State appointed TransCanada “and its subcontractors to act as its designated non-federal representatives” to assess the potential impact of the Keystone pipeline on endangered species.

Cardno Entrix contractors are running the public hearings from Port Arthur, Texas, to Glendive, Montana. It is not clear from media reports whether the State Department “representatives” at the hearing were in fact Entrix employees. ThinkProgress Green is awaiting information from the State Department.

“All of this adds up to the old saying, the fox is guarding the hen house,” says Jane Kleeb, the Nebraska activist leading the fight to protect her state from the risks of the Keystone XL project.

We will also followup and let you know if there were, in fact, any actual employees of the State Department present at this hearing.

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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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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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