Remember the Keystone XL pipeline? We’re ALL being sued!

confused_lIt would have brought a million barrels of toxic tar-sands sludge oil across the length of our nation, through wetlands and communities. President Obama wisely rejected it.

Only now you and other American taxpayers may have to pay for that common-sense decision.

TransCanada is demanding that American taxpayers pay them $15 billion in compensation. They’re using the “investor-state dispute system” that’s in NAFTA – just like the one in the Trans-Pacific Partnership

It allows corporate polluters to attack our environmental and safety laws in private courts stacked in their favor. These companies think protecting clean air and water is a trade barrier. If TPP passes, they will be able to sue any time we manage to pass not just environmental legislation, but anything they believe might hurt their bottom lines. And we’ll be on the hook when they win in their sham corporate-biased dispute system established by the TPP.

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Obama’s Rejection of Keystone XL Is Victory, But That’s Not the Whole Story

‘The black snake, Keystone XL, has been defeated and best believe we will dance to our victory!’

(Photo: tarsandsaction/flickr/cc)

President Obama’s official rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline on Friday was met with grand applause from those who opposed the project and organizers who worked tirelessly, despite long odds, to force the administration’s hand.

However, even as celebrations were enjoyed and an evening rally was scheduled outside the White House, there’s more to this story than the simple rejection of a single pipeline and the ultimate climate legacy of a president who has announced a ‘historic’ decision.

Mass Movements Work

Through years of unprecedented campaigning, ordinary people in the United States and Canada turned what could have been an unremarkable rubber stamping of yet another fossil fuel pipeline into an internationally-watched fight to stop climate change. Since 2011, communities across the United States have staged over 750 direct actions and protests across the country—from mass sit-ins at the White House to a tens-of-thousands-strong march on the National Mall. Farmers, workers, students, Indigenous peoples, and communities on the frontlines of oil refineries and extreme weather put their bodies and relationships on the line—risking arrest, talking to their neighbors, and taking to the streets.

“The black snake, Keystone XL, has been defeated and best believe we will dance to our victory!” —Tom Goldtooth, Indigenous Environmental Network

“We stood our ground and today President Obama stood with us, the pipeline fighters,” said Jane Kleeb, director of Bold Nebraska. “Tonight landowners can finally go to sleep knowing their family is safe and sound. Our unlikely alliance showed America that hard work and scientific facts can beat Big Oil’s threat to our land and water.”

Those interested can sign an online Thank You Card to the Movement that will be delivered to every single person who has participated in an action against the Keystone XL pipeline since over the past four years. And people across the United States are holding rejection parties to relish in “one golden well-deserved moment” of celebration.

Canada’s Win, But Trudeau’s “Disappointment”

Even as they celebrated the KXL rejection, Canadian climate activists on Friday seized on President Barack Obama’s statement that freshly sworn-in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau—who publicly supported the project on the campaign trail—had “expressed his disappointment” about the U.S. State Department’s decision on the pipeline.

“President Obama just sent a message that Prime Minister Trudeau should heed—you can’t be a climate leader while supporting tar sands pipelines.” —Mike Hudema, Greenpeace Canada

Social activist Naomi Klein, for example, tweeted that Trudeau’s reaction was a “BAD way to enter the climate conversation,” because “dirty pipelines are the way of the past.”

The Keystone development came as Canadian environmentalists entered their second of four days of civil disobedience, aimed at convincing Trudeau to freeze tar sands development and commit to a justice-based transition to a clean energy economy.

They took Friday’s news as a chance to double down on their message: “Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline sets a new standard for political climate action,” said Clayton Thomas-Muller, Stop it at the Source Campaigner with 350.org Canada. “Justin Trudeau needs to take note that it is time now to listen to the science, to Indigenous Peoples, and to freeze tar sands expansion.”

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“President Obama just sent a message that Prime Minister Trudeau should heed—you can’t be a climate leader while supporting tar sands pipelines,” added (pdf) Mike Hudema, climate and energy campaigner with Greenpeace Canada. “The prime minister needs to follow the president’s lead and recognize that science demands and the public wants action on climate change and that can’t be done while expanding the tar sands.”

Economics of Tar Sands

The pipeline rejection comes amid a continuing plummet in crude oil prices, which has forced some oil giants to ditch certain projects and means dwindling enthusiasm for tar sands production, because, as “the world’s most expensive crude,” it just doesn’t make economic sense.

Bloomberg reported the rejection was just a confirmation that “there’s less appetite for expensive Canadian oil sands in an era of $45 crude.”

Yet the falling price of oil has left TransCanada “undeterred,” and as Christine Tezak, an energy market analyst at ClearView Energy Partners, told the New York Times, “How long it takes [to move tar sands crude] is just a result of oil prices. If prices go up, companies will get the oil out.”

A ‘Historic’ Decision? Yes. But Not So Fast on Obama’s Climate Leadership

Obama took the occasion of the Keystone announcement to tout his administration’s environmental track record—but should rejection of this one project be allowed to overshadow his adminstration’s numerous shortcomings when it comes to climate?

“America is leading on climate change by working with other big emitters like China to encourage and announce new commitments to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions,” Obama said, adding that “if we’re going to prevent large parts of this Earth from becoming not only inhospitable but uninhabitable in our lifetimes, we’re going to have to keep some fossil fuels in the ground.”

However, Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline comes only months after he approved offshore drilling in the Arctic, an affront to climate activists and a near-fatal blow to vulnerable communities and marine life that was only avoided when Royal Dutch Shell called off its exploration project in September.

Through his presidency, Obama has repeatedly been criticized for bragging that he has expanded domestic oil and gas production, and critics say his “all-of-the-above” energy strategy proves he simply does not understand the dangers posed by runaway climate change nor the urgency needed for a rapid and just transition to renewables.

As climate experts have pointed out ahead of the United Nations-sponsored COP21 talks in Paris, beginning later this month, the U.S. is far from a leader in climate action and is one of several wealthy nations that is not meeting its potential to reduce greenhouse gases. Though it has historically been the planet’s leading polluter, the U.S. under Obama has continued to evade its financial obligations to help developing countries deal with the immediate impacts of global warming.

Then there’s the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the 12-nation agreement and “corporate power grab nightmare” that Obama has pushed for strongly even as experts warn the deal is an absolute “nightmare” when it comes to environment and, in fact, never even mentions the term “climate change.”

In The Shadow of KXL, A Troubling Network of Pipelines, Oil Trains, and Climate Denial

As Common Dreams has reported extensively, the fight over Keystone XL has not prevented the fossil fuel and pipeline industries on both sides of the U.S./Canada border from aggressively—if quietly—planning, proposing, and building a network of infrastructure projects that collectively “dwarf” KXL in their capacity.

“While the Obama White House Keystone XL decision has been touted by most environmentalists and criticized by Big Oil and its front groups, the truth is much more complex and indeed, dirty.” —Steve Horn, DeSmogBlog

From the “zombie-like” Northern Gateway pipeline that refuses to die in western Canada to the massive eastward proposal known “Energy East,” the major pipeline companies in Canada continue to show their determination in upping the nation’s ability to transport their vast reserves of dirty oil. In addition to the those larger and well-known projects, there are numerous others that continue to threaten communities and the climate across Canada.

In the U.S., a vast network consisting of thousands of miles of new pipelines has been built in recent years. As Steve Horn, a freelance investigative journalist who writes for DeSmogBlog, said on Friday: “While the Obama White House Keystone XL decision has been touted by most environmentalists and criticized by Big Oil and its front groups, the truth is much more complex and indeed, dirty. That’s because for years behind the scenes the Obama Administration has quietly been approving hundreds of miles-long pieces of pipeline owned by pipeline company goliath Enbridge.”

And Daphne Wysham, director of the Climate and Energy Program at the Center for Sustainable Economy in Washington state, added, “The Pacific Northwest is facing the carbon equivalent of five Keystone XL pipelines in the form of coal, gas, and oil via rail and pipeline.”

Meanwhile, the exponential growth of oil-by-rail has become an area of serious concern for environmentalists and community members who have done their best to squelch the false argument that we must choose between the inevitable destruction of a pipeline disaster or the wreckage of the next firey oil train derailment.

As Stephen Kretzmann, of Oil Change International, told Common Dreams in 2013, “There is no use talking about the best way to transport a product which climate science tells us shouldn’t even be being produced … It’s like debating whether or not menthol or regular cigarettes are worse for you. They both kill, and that’s the point.”


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It Was a Good Week in the Fight to Stop Tar Sands

Statoil postpones Alberta tar sands mine project;  pipeline expansion that would have gone through conservation area on hold

by Andrea Germanos, CommonDreams staff writer

A demonstration against Kinder Morgan’s pipeline expansion project. (Photo:  Niall Williams/flickr/cc)

Opponents of tar sands got some good news this week.

Oil and gas company Statoil announced Thursday that it was shelving its Corner tar sands project in Alberta.

The Norwegian firm’s decision to postpone the project “for a minimum of three years” is due to economic costs of labor and materials, according to a press statement from the company.

“Market access issues also play a role—including limited pipeline access which weighs on prices for Alberta oil, squeezing margins and making it difficult for sustainable financial returns,” part of the statement reads.

A similar announcement was made earlier this year by French energy firm Total, which said it was shelving its Joslyn tar sands mine in Alberta because of escalating costs. In addition, Shell announced in February that it was stopping work on its Pierre River mine in the Alberta tar sands.

Anthony Swift writes at NRDC’s Switchboard blog that these announcements show it is

…time to abandon the tattered argument that major pipelines like Keystone XL would not enable substantial tar sands expansion and associated carbon emissions. Industry doesn’t believe it – and neither should policy makers.

[…]

If we build Keystone XL, we’ll see many of the tar sands projects that are being cancelled and postponed become viable once again. At a time when decisive action on climate change is urgently needed, the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would make the problem of carbon pollution worse – enabling the production of some of the world’s dirtiest fossil fuels.

Also on Thursday, tar sands critics in the city of Burnaby, British Columbia scored at least a temporary victory in their fight to stop energy giant Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion—a project facing strong opposition.

Canada’s National Energy Board (NEB) said that at this time it could not force the city to allow the company to conduct its surveys and studies for the work in the conservation area, which would violate the city’s bylaws.

CBC News reported that “Kinder Morgan wants to bore a hole under [Burnaby] mountain as part of a proposal to nearly triple the capacity of the existing pipeline, but the city has vowed to block the project however it can.”

In its statement, the NEB writes “that the motion filed by Trans Mountain raises a constitutional question as to whether City of Burnaby bylaws are inapplicable to the company as it exercises its powers under the National Energy Board Act and whether the city should be prevented from enforcing those bylaws.”

It is now up to the company to provide formal notice to the attorneys general of Canada and the provinces if it wants to continue, and the issue would then return to the NEB.

Environmental group ForestEthics has said that among the tar sands pipeline’s problems is that it could “increase tanker traffic in the region from about 80 a year to over 400 tankers a year.”

Mayor of Burnaby and pipeline foe Derek Corrigan said at a rally this month that “that is the scariest concept for us as a city and as a province that you can imagine. When you think about the potential catastrophe that could occur as a result of one of those tankers being damaged in our inlet—the destruction that that would cause to the reputation of this city…the people that surround that inlet…[and] to the wildlife—and never mind the tourism.”


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Dear Secretary John Kerry

As someone concerned with climate change, I want to thank you for your years of climate leadership as a Senator. As Secretary of State, you have the opportunity to have an even greater impact on combating climate change. One of the main ways you can do that now is by telling President Obama that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is not in our national interest and should be rejected.

Climate action starts at home, and one of the first and clearest actions you could take would be to recognize that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is a climate issue. The evidence is clear that Keystone XL could increase production levels of tar sands oil in Alberta, and therefore significantly add to carbon emissions. Moreover, the massive investment would lock us into dependence on this dirty fuel for decades, exacerbating carbon pollution just when we have to move quickly and decisively in the other direction.

Beyond the effects on our climate, activities to remove those toxic materials have already had a serious impact on wildlife who call that area home.  Plus, the dangerous pipeline would put the water supply and the bread basket we use to feed millions of Americans at risk. After a year in which many communities across the USA were harmed by spills from existing pipelines, we cannot allow any more of the dirtiest, most toxic tar sands immersed in solvents that NO ONE knows how to clean up, to spill and permanently contaminate our farm lands, our aquifers and our waterways.

President Obama will have the final say on the Presidential Permit for Keystone XL, but your department, as the lead agency, will point the way. Although the State Department’s environmental impact statement underestimated the likelihood that Keystone XL pipeline would fuel climate change, you can set the record straight in your National Interest Determination.

At a minimum, you could say that Keystone XL is not in our national interest. But to be totally blunt, this pipeline would be an absolute disaster not only for our country, but also for our planet! Not only is there is no available “Planet B” within migrating distance, we have no viable means to get there even if there were a likely “Planet B.”

All we ask is that you get your facts right and support our fight against climate change in your decision on Keystone XL. We’re sure that once you have studied the issue carefully, you will see that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is a significant climate issue, and must be stopped.


The final comment period is open for 30 days.  Send your own letter to Secretary Kerry asking him to “reject the Keystone XL pipeline.”

Can KXL Pass the President’s Climate Test?

— Tom Steyer, NextGenClimate

At his Georgetown University address this June, President Obama laid down a bold marker on the Keystone XL Pipeline: he would only approve the project if it does not significantly increase carbon pollution.

Since then, we’ve learned the following:

  • Keystone XL is the only viable way to exploit the Canadian tar sands — alternatives like rail could never fully replace the pipeline’s volume.
  • Because of this, Keystone XL’s completion will dramatically speed the extraction of dirty tar sands oil — increasing the rate of production by up to 36%.
  • Accordingly, Keystone XL’s carbon impact is massive. The project would add more carbon to our atmosphere over its lifetime than the combined tailpipe emissions of every car in America for one year.

Now, just 6 months after the President’s promise, the conversation shifts back to Georgetown to evaluate these facts.

“Can Keystone Pass the President’s Climate Test?” is a summit co-hosted by NextGen Climate Action and the Center for American Progress Action Fund that will bring together top academic and private sector experts to look at:

  • the pipeline’s carbon footprint
  • whether that footprint can be meaningfully offset, and
  • what impact the pipeline’s carbon pollution will have on climate change.

RSVP for Monday, December 2nd’s livestream of this event at www.KeystoneTruth.com

Tune in for the truth: the Keystone XL Pipeline is not in our national interest.