Right now in Texas, a foreign corporation, TransCanada, is using our government’s 5th Amendment right of eminent domain to confiscate private land belonging to Americans, to build a massive oil pipeline so TransCanada can ship oil from the Gulf of Mexico to non-Americans around the world. Oil, by the way, that will accelerate our planet’s plunge into global warming-induced catastrophe. So the question is, “Why?
It’s up to Obama to stop the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
After avoiding the topic of climate change throughout his second presidential bid, Barack Obama renewed his commitment to the climate in his first news conference following his re-election.
“I am a firm believer that climate change is real, that it is impacted by human behavior and carbon emissions,” he said. “And as a consequence, I think we’ve got an obligation to future generations to do something about it.”
If Obama believes what he said, he’s got a clear choice in front of him at the very beginning of his second term. He needs to reject — once and for all — the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, designed to carry viscous tar sands petroleum from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico.
It’s up to Obama to stop the pipeline.
And it’s not a terribly difficult decision. Releasing the carbon from the Canadian tar sands into our atmosphere is a climate disaster waiting to happen. But even beyond the climate argument, it should be hard for the president to argue that it’s important to allow a foreign corporation — TransCanada — to bisect our country with the longest oil pipeline in the Western Hemisphere. This project puts Americans’ land and water at risk of damaging oil spills, while gaining very little for the American people in benefits like jobs and energy security.
The pipeline’s proponents tend to exaggerate its meager benefits.
For example, estimates of jobs this project would create range only from a high of about 20,000 (TransCanada’s estimate) to as low as 5,000 (the State Department). Even TransCanada acknowledges that its figure includes 13,000 temporary jobs, according to a formula that counts one person working for two years as two jobs. By comparison, the low-impact extension of the wind-energy Production Tax Credit passed as part of the “fiscal cliff” negotiations is projected to create and maintain far more clean-energy jobs — up to 54,000 of them.
The pipeline would advance U.S. energy security even less than job creation.
TransCanada can sell its oil — a global commodity — into the global market as it sees fit, which is why the pipeline terminates at a port in the Gulf of Mexico. This oil won’t necessarily stay in the United States. Even if it did, Canadian tar sands petroleum can’t “reduce our dependence on foreign oil.” It is foreign oil. Meanwhile, with both U.S. renewable energy production and oil drilling on the rise under Obama, we’ve already reduced our oil imports by around 1 million gallons a day (or 10 percent) between 2010 and 2011. We can continue lowering oil imports and increasing energy security without the risks of the Keystone pipeline.
In that first post-election press conference, as the East Coast began its recovery from Superstorm Sandy, Obama acknowledged “an extraordinarily large number of severe weather events here in North America,” as well as the acceleration of polar ice caps melting and global temperature rise. He took pride in the rise in fuel efficiency standards on cars and trucks during his first term, and also acknowledged that “we haven’t done as much as we need to.”
This is Obama’s chance to do much, much more.
Tar sands oil is so much dirtier than conventional crude that Obama’s own EPA calculated that a full-capacity Keystone XL pipeline will add as much as 27 million metric tons of carbon dioxide to our atmosphere annually. That’s the equivalent of adding 6.2 million more cars to our roads. So much for those new fuel-economy standards.
The damages of the Keystone pipeline will far outweigh its benefits. Obama should reject the Keystone pipeline at the start of his second term.
Andrew Korfhage is Green America’s online and special projects editor. GreenAmerica.org. Distributed via OtherWords (OtherWords.org)
On Tuesday, peaceful protesters blocking Keystone XL pipeline construction equipment in Texas were brutalized by police at the request and encouragement of TransCanada officials.1
The two protesters, who had handcuffed themselves together on TransCanada’s construction equipment, were subjected to choke holds, stress positions in which their free arms were handcuffed, contorted, and then pepper sprayed, burning their skin. They were then tased — one of the activists was tased twice.
There is no excuse for subjecting peaceful, defenseless protesters to this level of violence.
Reports indicate these tactics were carried out at the request direct of the TransCanada officials on the scene, who later congratulated police on a “job well done.”2
Police had been peaceful toward the protesters before TransCanada officials arrived. Then TransCanada officials encouraged police to “run off” the activists who were observing the protest. Once the cameras were out of sight, the unnecessary brutality was used until the pain became too much for the protesters.
Law enforcement officers are also known as peace officers. Their job is to protect the peace and serve the public, not corporations. Nonviolent civil disobedience has played a key role in winning social change in the U.S. In Texas, peaceful protesters are putting their bodies on the line to literally block TransCanada’s machinery because they see this as a key battle in our fight against climate change.
It is the job of the police to arrest these protesters and, in the absence of violent resistance, to do so without violence or brutality. If this slows down the work of TransCanada, so be it.
TransCanada has a history of lying to, bullying and strong-arming landowners. Now it is bringing violence upon peaceful protesters. If citizens are so moved to right a wrong that they will line up to be arrested in front of TransCanada’s machines, then TransCanada will have to wait while police safely and humanely arrest them.
We cannot let TransCanada’s brutality intimidate protesters into standing down, we cannot allow our public safety officers be commandeered as violent tools of a foreign oil company. And we will not let TransCanada jam its apocalyptic pipeline down our throats without due process of law.
The courageous protesters are taking action because they see the risk of doing nothing in the face of the “game over for the climate” Keystone XL pipeline as greater than the risk of personal harm as a result of their protest and arrest. They are playing an essential role to slow construction right now, and we need to do what we can to stand with them, and pressure TransCanada to ensure that peaceful protesters are treated safely, not with completely undue brutality.
Click below to automatically sign the petition to stand with the tar sands blockaders in Texas:
Thanks for fighting the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
Elijah Zarlin, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets
- “TransCanada Actively Encouraged Torture Tactics to be Used on Peaceful Protesters,” Tar Sands Blockade, 9/25/12
- “TransCanada Urges Texas Police to Use “Aggressive Pain Compliance Tactics” on Keystone XL Blockaders,” Fire Dog Lake, 9/26/12
Yesterday, the White House applauded news that TransCanada would go forward with building the southern leg of Keystone XL, promising to help expedite the permits necessary to complete the pipeline’s route from Cushing, Okla. to the refineries and shipping ports of Port Arthur, Texas.
Breaking up the pipeline in this way is quite simply TransCanada’s latest end run around the State Department’s formal review process, which is required for any pipeline that crosses an international border. It will also make it easier for the company to trample property rights and immediately seize Americans’ land by eminent domain.
President Obama’s support for the southern leg isn’t a surprise — he specifically mentioned this project as he was rejecting the full pipeline last month based on insufficient time to conduct a thorough review.
But it is deeply disappointing that, just a month later, he would signal a willingness to backtrack on even that minimal condition, saying he would “take every step possible to expedite the necessary federal permits.”
The southern portion of Keystone XL carries the same risks of oil spills on American water and soil, and brings the tar sands carbon bomb one big step closer to being unleashed across the world. President Obama must insure that the Department of Transportation and the Army Corps of Engineers do not cut any corners in evaluating this project, and consider it’s full impacts on the climate.
Tell President Obama: Don’t expedite approval of the southern leg of Keystone XL or cut any corners to force this project through.
While the southern portion of Keystone XL does not turn up the spigot of tar sands bitumen that can be transported out of Alberta, Canada, it does ultimately accomplish the biggest goal of Keystone XL — to bring the landlocked tar sands to shipping ports and the global market so it can be burned across the globe, leading to disastrous climate impacts.
This should be enough for the President to publicly reject this project. Instead he’s not only applauding it, he wants to “expedite” it.
Instead of criticizing TransCanada’s bullying as it runs rough shod over the private property rights of Americans, President Obama is now acting to enable TransCanada’s ability to seize land via eminent domain.
President Obama can’t keep trying to have it both ways. He can’t claim to want to move our nation away from fossil fuels and fight climate change while he paves the way for the dirtiest oil on earth to be shipped and burned across the globe. He can’t try to appeal to environmental voters by rejecting this pipeline on an insufficient evaluation, and then turn around and allow the pipeline developer to circumvent the approval process, even accelerating the minimal process that remains.
Tell President Obama: Don’t expedite approval of Keystone XL or cut any corners to force this project through.
We knew this project would be back, and we meant it when we said we’d fight it everywhere, every step of the way.
There will be many local and national opportunities in the upcoming approval fight — but for now the least President Obama can do is maintain even the minimal commitment he made to us when he rejected Keystone XL just a few weeks ago.
In Nevada, nothing can get folks riled up faster than messing with their guns, their water rights, or their property rights. It’s absolutely unconscionable that TransCanada is trying to confiscate land from American citizens for its pipeline that hasn’t yet been approved. They’re attempting top use eminent domain to sue landowners who don’t want their dirty tar sands sludge pipeline on their property. The arrogance of TransCanada is shocking, even for an oil company.
Even while the White House has delayed the process for assessing a required permit for the Keystone XL, TransCanada is suing landowners who won’t sell their land in its preferred pipeline path.
That path includes the 600 acre working-farm that Julia Trigg Crawford’s grandfather bought in 1948, along the southern banks of the Red River on the Texas, Oklahoma border; just East of where the Bois d’Arc Creek — which waters the farm — runs into the Red. Even though TransCanada doesn’t have a presidential permit to build the pipeline, the company has been threatening to confiscate properties like this from people like Julia Trigg; using eminent domain if the landowners don’t immediately accept the foreign corporation’s offer to buy an easement for the path of its pipeline.
It’s wrong for TransCanada to expect landowners to accept permanent damage to their land for the Keystone XL pipeline, or possible oil spills in the rivers and creeks they rely on. It’s doubly wrong to threaten these landowners and force them to comply for a pipeline that the company doesn’t even have permission to build!
Tell TransCanada: Stop using eminent domain to confiscate private property for a pipeline that hasn’t even been approved yet. Click here to sign the petition.
Under eminent domain, the government can force landowners to accept monetary payment for the use of their land for certain public-good projects like highways and railroads. This is a FOREIGN corporation who will take its profits at our expense … and that is not in the public interest of the ordinary citizens of this country!
Of course, TransCanada’s massive fuse to the carbon bomb of the tar sands shouldn’t qualify as one of these projects — it does great harm and only helps the profits of a foreign corporation. But regardless, the company doesn’t even have the permit to build it — in fact the White House just put a likely year-long hold on pipeline development after a massive grassroots backlash from environmentalists. But that hasn’t stopped TransCanada.
According to an article last month in The New York Times, the company has at least 34 eminent domain actions against landowners in Texas, and 22 in South Dakota.1 And their threats to landowners in Nebraska2 helped spark massive public opposition and a special legislative session that were key in the decision to consider a different route.
Many of these landowners are being sued by the company, and told that if they don’t take the small monetary offering — sometimes less than $10,000 in exchange for the permanent damage to their land, and huge risk of spills — their land will be condemned and TransCanada will seize the easement.
Many landowners, like Julia Trigg, are fighting back and doing everything they can to oppose TransCanada’s land grab.
Let’s make sure that TransCanada is being called out for these reprehensible tactics, and that landowners who are taking on this foreign corporation know that we’ve got their backs.
Tell TransCanada: It’s beyond arrogant to confiscate land for a pipeline that hasn’t even been approved yet. Stop using eminent domain to sue landowners who don’t want a dirty pipeline on their property. Click here to automatically sign the petition.