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Posted by Jeff Rubin on February 10th, 2014 under SmallerWorld
It’s nine years and counting since the Keystone pipeline was first proposed and TransCanada is still waiting for Presidential approval to build the line. An environmental assessment report from the US State Department that landed last week would seem to move TransCanada’s hopes forward, but the pipeline’s ultimate fate is still very much in limbo.
The State Department concluded that the Keystone XL project won’t lead to greater production from the oil sands and, by extension, more carbon emissions. Many see this overall assessment, which is more or less a restatement of earlier findings, as highly questionable. Indeed, just ask the oil industry itself how important new pipeline connections are to not only increasing production, but also the very commercial viability of the oil sands resource.
The report does envision scenarios in which oil sands development is curbed by a combination of lower oil prices and a lack of pipeline capacity. Ultimately, though, the State Department finds that an increase in the amount of oil moved by rail will allow new oil sands production to come on-stream whether or not new pipelines are built. The upshot, at least for the State Department, is that oil sands production will march ahead with or without Keystone. Environmental advocates, suffice to say, disagree.
In any event, there won’t be any cross border pipeline construction until President Obama gives the okay. And no one knows when that will be or what he’ll ultimately decide.
The President has proven to be a wily politician, particularly on the carbon front. Environmentalists were happy when he directed the Environmental Protection Agency to sanction tough new emissions standards for power generation that will effectively preclude any new coal-fired plants from being built. But he did so only after the advent of cheap shale gas had already rendered coal uneconomic, meaning many coal-fired plants would have been shuttered regardless of new rules from the EPA.
In a similar vein, the President has boldly attached a carbon standard to his approval of Keystone, but that only happened after a gush of domestic oil production made more volume from Alberta’s oil sands redundant to the US market. Indeed, the US is so awash in oil that, even as Obama ponders his decision on Keystone, the American Petroleum Institute is working hard to remove restrictions on exporting crude that date back to 1975. The lobbying effort would only seem to bolster the credibility of claims by US environmentalists that the Canadian oil shipped through Keystone won’t be burned by American motorists but instead shipped abroad for another country’s benefit.
Regardless of the pipeline’s ultimate fate, the Keystone saga highlights the enormity of the challenge that’s ahead of oil sands producers. While Keystone’s 830,000 barrels-a-day of throughput is significant, it’s still only a fraction of the additional pipeline capacity that will be needed for producers to fulfill their expansion plans. The industry is targeting 5 million barrels a day of production within the next 20 years, an amount that it, as well as Prime Minister Stephen Harper, sees as inevitable.
Inevitability, though, is clearly in the eye of the beholder. To achieve daily production of 5 million barrels will require not just Keystone, but multiple versions of the pipeline.
According to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, reaching 5 million barrels a day will require a greenlight for Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Project and TransCanada’s Energy East line, a doubling of Kinder Morgan’s existing Trans Mountain Pipeline, as well as an expansion of the Alberta Clipper line — all in addition to Keystone. Even with those projects going ahead, the industry would still be shy about a million barrels a day of shipping capacity, a shortfall that CN, CP, and other railways would be expected to step in and cover.
Obama’s decision on Keystone, though, is up first. Contrary to the opinion of the US State Department, approving Keystone XL is indeed a necessary condition to increasing oil sands production. What happens if it doesn’t get built? Canada’s oilpatch doesn’t like to think about that scenario, but it’s one that investors need to be considering.
Proposed Energy East Pipeline Could Exceed Keystone XL in GHG Emissions, Finds Report | DeSmog Canada
Proposed Energy East Pipeline Could Exceed Keystone XL in GHG Emissions, Finds Report
A new report from Pembina Institute says that the proposed TransCanada Energy East pipeline could generate up to 32 million tonnes (Mt) of additional greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the crude oil production required to fill it. Thirty-two million tonnes of carbon emissions is the equivalent of adding 7 million cars to Canada’s roads, exceeding the projected emissions of the Keystone XL pipeline proposal.
The Keystone XL pipeline, in comparison, would generate 22 Mt of additional GHG emissions through oilsands production, according to a previous report by Pembina. The estimated emissions impact of Energy East is “higher than the total current provincial emissions of five provinces.”
The $12 million Energy East pipeline, proposed by TransCanada in August 2013, would have the capacity to transport 1.1 million barrels per day (bpd) of oilsands and conventional crude oil from Alberta to New Brunswick. According to the report, the volume of new oilsands production associated with Energy East would represent up to a 39 per cent increase from 2012 oilsands production levels.
Figure 1: Greenhouse gas emissions associated with Energy East compared to those of selected
provinces. Climate Implications of the Proposed Energy East Pipeline: A Preliminary Assessment. The Pembina Institute, 2014.
Oilsands production is currently Canada’s fastest growing source of GHG emissions, and is set to nearly triple between now and 2030, according to Environment Canada. Report authors Clare Demerse and Erin Flanagan told DeSmog Canada that this growth is “the single largest barrier to achieving [Canada’s] 2020 climate target.”
Given that Canada is set to miss its 2020 emissions reduction target by 122 Mt with current measures, Demerse and Flanagan see the Energy East proposal’s potential to add a new source of GHGs from the oilsands as “significant and troubling.”
The authors stress that the report, titled Climate Implications of the Proposed Energy East Pipeline, only assesses the pipeline’s upstream, “Well-to-Refinery Gate” emissions impact, rather than the downstream, “Well-to-Wheel” emissions of the crude oil being transported, which would include emissions released by its combustion in vehicle engines. The actual climate impact of Energy East would therefore be even greater than figures in the report.
“The oilsands are already Canada’s fastest-growing source of carbon pollution and the Energy East pipeline would help to accelerate production. Any regulatory review should include not only the impact of the pipeline itself, but also the impact of producing the crude that would flow through it,” said Demerse, Federal Policy Director at Pembina.
Figure 2: Change in GHG emissions by economic sector, 2005-2020. Climate Implications of the Proposed Energy East Pipeline: A Preliminary Assessment. The Pembina Institute, 2014.
Demerse and Flanagan hope that the report will urge the National Energy Board (NEB) to undertake a more thorough appraisal of Energy East’s environmental impact than its review of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway proposal, saying that they wanted to submit their findings “before the National Energy Board decides on the format of its review.”
The authors note that “many Canadians asked for consideration of the impacts of oilsands production in the Northern Gateway hearings,” so if the NEB chooses a “more complete and balanced review of the Energy East proposal – one that looks at the environmental impacts of filling the pipeline as well as the pipeline infrastructure itself – I think the regulators would simply be catching up to where Canadians already are.”
TransCanada is set to submit its regulatory application for Energy East to the NEB later this year.
The report recommends that the NEB “include the pipeline’s full upstream impacts in the scope of its review, and that the federal government should end its delays and adopt strong emissions regulations for the oil and gas sector.”
The report mentions that carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies have been found to lower oilsands production emissions, but adds that “Canada lacks the kind of stringent climate policies that would provide a strong incentive for those kinds of investments,” especially considering the high cost of such technology.
The authors believe that approving projects like Energy East and Keystone XL could “see less emphasis on, and less encouragement of, clean energy investment in Canada” when the country needs to be “starting the transition to a clean energy future.”
“The oilsands industry plans to triple production by 2030 and building new pipelines is necessary to realize those ambitions. We need to look at the full scope of impacts when evaluating pipelines,” said Flanagan.
In its 2013 World Energy Outlook, the International Energy Association (IEA) modelled a scenario where countries take the action required to keep global warming below 2 degrees C, and found that global demand for oil would likely peak in 2020 and fall thereafter. Demerse and Flanagan suggest that Canada needs to “keep that kind of long-term picture in mind when we’re considering a pipeline proposal that could last for 30, 40 or 50 years.”
State Department Releases Flawed Keystone XL Final Environmental Review In Super Bowl Friday Trash Dump | DeSmogBlog
The State Department has released theFinal Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the proposed northern leg of the controversial and long-embattled TransCanada Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
In a familiar “Friday trash dump” — a move many expected the Obama administration to shun — John Kerry’s State Department chose to “carefully stage-manage the report’s release” on Super Bowl Friday when most Americans are switching focus to football instead of political scandals. **See bottom of this post for breaking analysis**
Anticipating the report’s release, insiders who had been briefed on the review told Bloomberg News the SEIS — not a formal decision by the State Department on the permitting of the pipeline, but rather another step in the department’s information gathering — “will probably disappoint environmental groups and opponents of the Keystone pipeline.”
And, indeed, the new report reads: “Approval or denial of any one crude oil transport project, including the proposed Project, remains unlikely to significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands, or the continued demand for heavy crude oil at refineries in the United States.”
This reiterates one of the earlier draft’s most heavily criticized conclusions that the pipeline is “unlikely to have a substantial impact on the rate of development in the oil sands,” and thus avoids a comprehensive assessment of those climate impacts.
In June 2013, President Obama said in a speech announcing his Climate Action Plan at Georgetown University that he would only approve the permit if it was proven that “this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.”
The final environmental review is being released on the heels of damning revelations about the close ties between the Canadian pipeline builder, TransCanada and Environmental Resources Management (ERM). ERM was hired by the State Department to conduct the environmental review.
Friends of the Earth president Erich Pica did not mince words in his reaction to the State Department’s new report, telling the National Journal, “The State Department’s environmental review of the Keystone XL pipeline is a farce. Since the beginning of the assessment, the oil industry has had a direct pipeline into the agency.”
ERM Group: A History Tied to API
Over the past two years, DeSmogBlog has published a number of articles documenting controversial projects — in Peru, the Caspian Sea, Delaware and Alaska — that the ERM Group has approved. In each case the projects have been permitted and have eventually resulted in spills or severe environmental damage.
ERM Group is a dues-paying member of the American Petroleum Institute, which has spent over $22 million lobbying on behalf of Keystone XL.
Timing of the Release
The Final SEIS also precedes a heavily anticipated State Department Inspector General’s report addressing these potential conflicts-of-interest between TransCanada, ERM and the State Department, as has been covered here onDeSmogBlog. It also occurs on a Friday afternoon before the Super Bowl, with attention of much of the American public diverted.
Environmental groups and opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline were surprised by the timing and suddenness of the report’s release. The surprise was not shared by supporters of the pipeline.
For days, industry reps have been claiming that the SEIS would be released this week. The loudest voice was that of Jack Gerard, chief executive of the American Petroleum Institute (API), who speaking to Reuters last week said, “It’s our expectation it will be released next week,” citing sources within the administration.
ERM Group is a dues-paying member of API. Of this clear conflict and the timing of the release, Steve Kretzmann of Oil Change International wrote:
Jack Gerard was apparently briefed by “sources within the Administration” on the timing and content of the report. Before the environmental community. Before Congress. Before anyone else.
If that doesn’t prove once and for all what a corrupt process this has been, I don’t know what will. The oil industry, which has had this process rigged since the word go, are the first to know, because of their cozy and corrupt role in this process.
Green Groups Respond
Jim Murphy of National Wildlife Federation asked this of the decision before the State Department:
The question going into the State Department’s final environmental impact statement is this: Who will State listen to? Will State reverse course after listening to the Environmental Protection Agency experts who criticized the first draft as ‘inadequate‘ and the second draft as ‘insufficient’ on climate impacts, oil spill risks, and threats to water resources? Will it listen to Goldman Sachs, who called Keystone XL key to expanding tar sands production and all the carbon pollution that goes along with it?
What about Canada’s own government or the oil industry, which has repeatedly said Keystone XL is needed to realize tar sands growth plans that Canada projects will cause its own carbon emissions tosoar 38% by 2030? Or will State stand by the oil industry consultants it hired to write that first draft currently being investigated forconflicts of interest?
During the State of the Union, President Obama said he wanted to be able to look into the eyes of his children’s children and say he did everything he could to confront the climate crisis. How exactly does he plan on explaining to his grandchildren how building a 800,000 barrel a day tar sands pipeline like Keystone XL helped solve climate change? The twisted logic in the State Department’s environmental assessment might provide some political cover in DC, but it will be small comfort for future generations who have the bear the impacts of the climate crisis.
Over 76,000 citizens have pledged an oath of civil disobedience if Keystone XL gets the final green-light from President Obama. Though that decision will probably not be made for months.
Green Groups Take Action
In anticipation of the report’s release, a diverse coalition of 16 environmental organizations sent a petition to Secretary of State John Kerry, insisting that the scope of the environmental review is far too narrow and that an entirely new review is necessary.
Citing the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, the groups threaten legal action if the environmental review doesn’t consider the cumulative impact of related projects, like the Keystone XL and the proposed Alberta Clipper expansion.
The groups write:
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires that an EIS consider the cumulative impacts of the proposed federal agency action. Cumulative impacts are defined as: “the impact on the environment which results from the incremental impact of the action when added to other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future actions regardless of what agency (Federal or non-Federal) or person undertakes such other actions.”…
The Keystone XL DSEIS fails to address the cumulative effects of Keystone XL and Alberta Clipper, especially the growth-inducing effects that the combined 1.3 million bpd of additional pipeline capacity would have on the rate of tar sands extraction in Canada.
The groups signing the petition include: Sierra Club, Bold Nebraska, Center for Biological Diversity, For Love of Water, Friends of the Earth, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Labor Network for Sustainability, Michigan Environmental Council, Minnesota Environmental Partnership, Minnesota Public Interest Research Group, Michigan Land Use Institute, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Oil Change International, Rainforest Action Network and 350.org.
“The State Department will open a 30-day comment period on Feb. 5, and the agencies will have 90 days to weigh in,” The Washington Post explained. “After a decision is issued other agencies have 15 days to object, and if one does, the president must decide whether or not to issue the permit.”
DeSmogBlog will continue to feature in-depth analysis of the Keystone FEIS and responses from energy, climate and policy experts.
**UPDATES WILL BE ADDED BELOW AS ANALYSIS ROLLS IN**
BusinessWeek points to this section on the paltry job creation: Once constructed, Keystone XL “will support only 50 U.S. jobs–35 permanent employees and 15 temporary contractors.”
Ben Jervey contributed reporting to this article.
Image credit: Kris Krug.
The Kochs have bet big that the earth is doomed. (And Obama is fighting for them to win that bet).
Forbes magazine noted, way back in 2006, that though the Koch brothers – David and Charles – could sell Koch Industries and live happily ever after (on the proceeds from selling what was then the world’s largest private company), Charles, who actually runs the firm, told them straight out, that selling it would be “literally over my dead body.”
In other words: they won’t do that.
What, then, is such an extraordinary business plan, that keeps them from simply retiring as two of the world’s richest people? The answer seems clear:
Petroleum has been their firm’s base, ever since their dad, Fred Koch, started Koch Industries in 1940 (on the proceeds he had earned mainly during 1929-32 from helping Stalin build the Soviet Union’s crucial oil-infrastructure). However, Koch Industries has been diversifying recently. In 2004, they paid $4.2 billion for Dupont’s fibers businesses, including Dacron and much else. Then, in 2005, they paid $21 billion for Georgia-Pacific, the paper and wood-products manufacturer.
But their chief business continues to be petroleum: not just the pipelines to transport it, but increasingly also the raw oil in the ground, and the dirtier the oil the better. They now own two-thirds of the world’s dirtiest oil: Alberta Canada’s tar sands. And they are lobbying and propagandizing heavily for President Obama to allow construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline (which pipeline they would own 25%) in order for that deeply land-locked Canadian oil to be transported to two of their own Texas refineries, which have been especially adapted for the purpose. Not only would they be deriving about $1 billion per year from operating the pipeline, but they would also be marketing the tar sands, two thirds of which are on land that is owned by Koch Industries. That’s the two-thirds of Alberta’s tar sands oil that the Kochs actually own.
However, one of the world’s biggest banks, HSBC, came out with a study, on 25 January 2013, “Oil & Carbon Revisited: Value at Risk from ‘Unburnable’ Reserves,” which reported that in order for this planet to have even as much as a 50% chance of avoiding the climate’s going haywire, “only around 1,000 Gt [Gigatons] or a third of current proven reserves can be ‘burned’.” Furthermore, “Embedded ‘carbon’ in coal is three times the amount bound in oil and over four times that in gas.” This report acknowledged that, “It is clear that reduced usage of coal [whose usage is soaring in China and already causing massive health-problems in Chinese cities] is the key to stabilising and eventually reducing annual carbon emissions. However, we believe that reductions in oil demand … can be delivered more quickly than coal through improvements in transport fuel economy.” In other words: forcing a reduction in oil-use is absolutely essential, in order for our descendants not to lose the planet quickly.
On page 16 of that report was a stunning calculation, titled “Break-evens for selected high-cost oil projects,” and the researchers actually calculated there the price that a barrel of oil would need to fetch on the global market in order for each type of petroleum to be able to be produced without the sellers losing money on that oil. For “Deepwater” projects, it ranged from $49.40 up to $64.00. On “Heavy oil,” it was $54.70. And on “Oil sands” (Alberta’s oil, the dirtiest in the world), it was $75.50.
In other words, the Koch brothers (via their private firm) own two-thirds of the world’s dirtiest petroleum, which consequently is so costly to process, that it becomes utterly worthless at a global per-barrel price of $75.50. All other oil would still be profitable at that price, but not the oil that now constitutes the biggest speculative (and by far the riskiest) portion of the Koch brothers’ (or of Koch Industries’) massive investment portfolio.
Whereas other oil companies have focused on the lowest-cost petroleums to get to market, the Kochs have focused instead on the highest-cost petroleum to get to market. They bought it cheap, because it’s so dirty and land-locked.
Their business-plan (other than diversifying into non-petroleum industries) is simple: Drive their costs to produce their filthy oil down from the existing $75.50 per barrel, in order to make it more competitive (since they own two-thirds of the estimated 874 billion barrels of this stuff).
How can they drive that cost down? Right now, President Barack Obama is negotiating, behind the scenes, through his U.S. Trade Representative, to get Europe to weaken its anti-global-warming standards, so as to enable the world’s dirtiest oil to become more price-competitive.
On 24 September 2013, Kate Sheppard at Huffington Post bannered “Michael Froman, Top U.S. Trade Official, Sides With Tar Sands Advocates,” and she reported that the Obama Administration was threatening Europe with retaliation at the World Trade Organization if Europe didn’t eliminate its distinction between high-CO2 oil and regular oil – between tar-sands-derived oil, and ordinary petroleum. The U.S. Trade Representative told Congress that the issue he had here didn’t concern climate change, but only “inadequate transparency and public participation in the European Commission’s regulatory process.” Then, Sheppard herself asked one of his aides, who simply reiterated that by saying, “The United States shares the EU’s objective of reducing greenhouse gas intensity, but we have raised concerns with respect to inadequate transparency and public participation in the European Commission’s regulatory process.” Sheppard, at least as far as her news report indicated, asked no follow-up question, such as: “‘inadequate’ in what way; and how can you even be talking about that since the issue here is global warming?” So: the President and his Representative have not been confronted publicly on this matter.
Barack Obama’s public statements against global warming were belied by his actions in private, and yet his hirees, such as the U.S. Trade Representative, Michael Froman, formerly a Managing Director of Citigroup, were turning the table and accusing the EU of “inadequate transparency” – as if the future of this planet weren’t the issue, and a vastly more important one.
If President Obama can force Europe to lower their anti-global-warming standards in order to enable the Kochs to export their super-dirty oil to Europe via the Kochs’ Corpus Christi Texas refineries, then a significant portion of the existing cost-disadvantage of the Kochs’ super-dirty oil (as compared to cleaner oil) will be absorbed ultimately by the planet itself, in the form of added global warming. “These refineries have a combined crude oil processing capacity of about 300,000 barrels per day. While one potential purpose of the KXL Pipeline for Koch Industries could be to provide access to Canadian tar sands for its Corpus Christi refineries, this benefit appears relatively insignificant compared to their massive potential profits from producing tar sands crude oil.” (See page 11 there.) In other words: President Obama is negotiating behind the scenes in order to transfer these harms onto everyone else, so that the benefits will go to the Kochs for their having paid dirt-prices for each and every one of the two million acres of tar sands they own. (That’s on page 7.) Consequently, there would be, for the Koch brothers (as stated in the report’s Executive Summary), “$100 billion in potential profits due to KXL.” Their destroying this planet would thus be very profitable for them.
Apparently, this is the business plan that they are so eager to pursue that it’s more attractive to them than simply retiring: Instead of their being each tied with the other as being the6th-wealthiest person on this planet, they’d probably be by far the wealthiest two people of all individuals on Earth. (The report estimates that their joint existing fortune of roughly $80 billion will be enhanced by yet another $100 billion, for a total of $180 billion, or $90 billion apiece.) Apparently, the Kochs are doing this for sheer status. (They couldn’t possibly consume all their wealth even if they wanted to.) It thus seems that their motivation is basically similar to that of their father’s great benefactor, Stalin. His status was based on communist values; theirs is based on fascist values; but the motivation is status, just the same.
And Barack Obama, against whom the Kochs bundled more campaign cash than any other two people, for Mitt Romney and for Republicans in Congress and in the state houses, is fighting against the European Union, in order to assist the Kochs to achieve this, their dream. Perhaps that’s the only thing in this story that doesn’t make sense, but it is certainly the case, up till now. And (if there is another thing that doesn’t make sense) the massively ignorant American public wants them to win.
Obama’s excuse for trying to force Europe to buy the Kochs’ filthy oil might be called ludicrous. However, since this excuse proves that he is a hypocritical liar, and the stakes that are involved here are enormous for the entire world, it is, instead, tragic, if is not outright catastrophic.
Perhaps Obama, too, is chiefly driven by status. Then, all of this insanity on the part of the elite might make sense – in an insane sort of way. Maybe status-addicts are actually the type of people who most tend to rise to the top, anywhere. Hitler, Stalin, Capone, Koch, Obama, Bush: what’s the difference, really, other than their “personality”?
Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.
Baird speech to U.S. Chamber of Commerce17:03
Tom Mulcair interview 15:47
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird wants a decision soon on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, even if it’s not the one the federal government is counting on from the U.S. administration.
Baird told an audience at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C., on Thursday that building Keystone XL would create thousands of jobs and prompt economic growth on both sides of the border.
“With the construction season coming up, I don’t want a single unemployed worker sitting at home when they could get a knock on the door saying ‘we’ve got a great job for you,’” Baird said.
“So if there’s one message I’m going to be promoting on this trip, it is that the time for Keystone is now. I’ll go further — the time for a decision on Keystone is now, even if it’s not the right one,” said Baird. “We can’t continue in this state of limbo.”
Baird outlined three key reasons why the TransCanada pipeline that would carry oil from Alberta to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico should get the green light from President Barack Obama. He said there would be “no significant environmental impact,” that Canadian oil would offset imports from other sources and that carrying oil by pipeline is favourable to carrying it by rail.
“U.S. energy independence is too important; the environment is too important; and our economic growth is too important,” Baird said about the need for a decision to be made one way or the other.
Baird is in Washington for the North American ministerial meeting with his counterparts Secretary of State John Kerry and Mexico’s Jose Antonio Meade. The meeting is Friday but he arrived early and had multiple meetings with American lawmakers on Capitol Hill on Wednesday and Thursday and with others including National SecurityAdviser Susan Rice.
It is Kerry’s department that is currently finishing off a final environmental assessment report on the Keystone XL proposal and Baird said he hopes that will be completed in the coming weeks. Then the final decision rests with Obama.
“We’ll be making a strong case that this is a priority for an important friend and ally of the United States,” Baird told reporters about his meeting Friday with Kerry.
He wouldn’t elaborate on any contingency plans if Obama rejects the pipeline project and said his government is focused on getting it approved. Baird said a number of safety improvements have been made to what was already a safe project and that the proposal has been thoroughly studied by a number of agencies in the U.S. capital.
“We believe that decision-time is upon us. We look forward in the coming weeks for the State Department to release its final report and for the president to make a decision,” Baird said. “This matters to Canada. We’re a close friend, we’re a close ally and we want to see this project go forward and that’s a big part of our visit to talk to folks here in Washington about.”
Baird also addressed other bilateral issues including trade and streamlining regulations through the Beyond the Border initiative during his remarks to the chamber of commerce.
Harper recently suggested the U.S president had “punted” a politically uncomfortable dilemma by adding additional steps to the regulatory process. Harper also told a US audience in New York last September that Canada would not take “no” for an answer on the Keystone XL pipeline.
Nanos Number: pipeline politics 6:52
In an attempt to press the Obama administration on its own turf, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird used the first day of a Washington visit to repeatedly call for a prompt decision on the Keystone XL pipeline.
He buttressed his case by making public appearances Wednesday with two pro-Keystone Democratic senators, who both expressed frustration with how long the administration has dragged out the decision.
Baird offered a snappy reply when asked if there’s anything pro-Keystone politicians on either side of the border could still say or do to influence a debate that has been going on for years.
“One politician — the president of the United States — can say yes to a great project to create jobs on both sides of the border, help with energy independence and energy security,” Baird replied, drawing a chuckle from the lawmaker next to him, Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.
“Decision time is upon us.”
He repeated the “decision time” phrase on three separate occasions at two public appearances Wednesday, making increasingly clear the Canadian government’s frustration over the prolonged approval process.
Baird held a half-dozen meetings on Capitol Hill and several other get-togethers throughout the day.
His two media appearances — both with pro-Keystone lawmakers from the president’s party — allowed them to air their own feelings.
— Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (@SenatorHeitkamp) January 15, 2014
“I will tell you the frustration that many of us have,” said Heitkamp.
“It has taken us longer to make a decision than it took us to defeat Hitler in the Second World War.”
‘Weeks’ until environmental review
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Canada would not take “no for an answer” until the Alberta-to-Texas pipeline is approved, last fall in New York. More recently, he suggested the U.S. president had “punted” a politically uncomfortable dilemma by adding additional steps to the regulatory process.
When asked how soon he expected a decision, Baird said the ongoing environmental review by the State Department could be completed and released “in the coming weeks,” soon after this month’s state of the union address.
After that, he said, a decision could be announced quickly.
He delivered a similar message during a meeting with Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu, touted as the likely next chair of the Senate energy committee.
— Senator Landrieu (@SenLandrieu) January 15, 2014
With media invited into the meeting, she sympathetically placed a hand on Baird’s as she shared her regrets about how long the process had taken.
Landrieu, who faces a difficult re-election fight, said the project was popular in her state.
They used that public meeting to inform U.S. reporters that Canada has the same greenhouse-gas standards as the U.S., the same vehicle-emissions standards, and has done more to phase out coal.
Baird also met with U.S. Senator Bob Corker who posted a picture of his meeting with the foreign affairs minister after his approval of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.
#KeystoneXL will create jobs, expand access to North American energy and strengthen ties with Canada, our largest trading partner. -BC
— Senator Bob Corker (@SenBobCorker) January 15, 2014
During his three-day trip, Baird also has meetings with Secretary of State John Kerry, National Security Advisor Susan Rice and several think-tanks.
He’s also scheduled to speak Thursday to business leaders.
TransCanada Begins Injecting Oil Into Keystone XL Southern Half; Exact Start Date A Mystery | DeSmogBlog
Keystone XL’s southern half is one step closer to opening for business. TransCanada announced that “on Saturday, December 7, 2013, the company began to inject oil into the Gulf Coast Project pipeline as it moves closer to the start of commercial service.”
The Sierra Club’s legal challenge to stop the pipeline was recently denied by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, so the southern half, battled over for years between the industry and environmentalists, will soon become a reality.
According to a statement provided to DeSmog by TransCanada, “Over the coming weeks, TransCanada will inject about three million of [sic] barrels of oil into the system, beginning in Cushing, Oklahoma and moving down to the company’s facilities in the Houston refining area.”
In mid-January, up to 700,000 barrels per day of Alberta’s tar sands diluted bitumen (dilbit) could begin flowing through the 485-mile southern half of TransCanada’s pipeline, known as the Gulf Coast Project. Running from Cushing, Oklahoma to Port Arthur, Texas, the southern half of the pipeline was approved by both a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nationwide Permit 12 and an Executive Order from President Barack Obama in March 2012.
Bloomberg, The Canadian Press and The Oklahoman each reported that the Gulf Coast Project pipeline is now being injected with oil. Line fill is the last key step before a pipeline can begin operations.
“There are many moving parts to this process — completion of construction, testing, regulatory approvals, line fill and then the transition to operations,” TransCanada spokesman Shawn Howard told DeSmog. “Line fill has to take place first, then once final testing and certifications are completed, the line can then go into commercial service.”
Residents living along the length of the southern half will have no clue about the rest of the start-up process, as TransCanada says it won’t provide any more information until the line is already running. “For commercial and contractual reasons, the next update we will provide will be after the line has gone into commercial service,” the company announced.
When DeSmog asked whether the company is currently injecting conventional oil or diluted bitumen sourced from the Canadian tar sands, TransCanada’s Howard replied:
“Many people like to try and categorize the blend, etc., however we are injecting oil into the pipeline. As you’ve likely seen me quoted before, oil is oil and this pipeline is designed to handle both light and heavy blends of oil, in accordance with all U.S. regulatory standards.
I am not able to provide you the specific blend or breakdown as we are not permitted (by our customers) from disclosing that information to the media. There are very strict confidentiality clauses in the commercial contracts we enter into with our customers, and that precludes us from providing that. The reason is that if we are providing information about a specific blend, when it is in our system, etc. – that has the potential to identify who our customers may be or allow others to take financial positions in the market and profit from that information when others do not have access to the same information. This has much farther reaching impacts for the financial markets (and ultimately all of us).”
Riddled with Anomalies
The Keystone XL line fill comes just weeks after Public Citizen released an investigation revealing potentially dangerous anomalies such as dents, faulty welding and exterior damage that the group suggests could lead to pipeline ruptures, tears and spills.
“[Public Citizen] and its citizen sources uncovered over 125 anomalies in that half of the line alone,” DeSmogBlog reported on November 12. “These findings moved Public Citizen to conclude the southern half of the pipeline shouldn’t begin service until the anomalies are taken care of, and ponders if the issues can ever be resolved sufficiently.”
Public Citizen posted these photos on Flickr:
Pinholes in the applied coating can lead to exposing underlying pipe damage to leakage.
Multiple coating patches over new pipe about to be placed into the trench during initial construction.
Close up of section of Keystone XL southern half’s pipe marked “junk” by TransCanada.
Front of a cut out section of pipe on citizen David Whatley’s land marked “Dent Cut Out.”
A dent anomaly on the exterior cut out section of pipe. The dent was about the size of a brick.
Precedent of Spills
“The government should investigate, and shouldn’t let crude flow until that is done,” Tom Smith, Director of Public Citizen’s Texas office said in a press statement accompanying the report. “Given the stakes – the potential for a catastrophic spill of hazardous crude along a pipeline that traverses hundreds of streams and rivers and comes within a few miles of some towns and cities – it would be irresponsible to allow the pipeline to start operating.
“TransCanada’s history with pipeline problems speaks for itself and I fear we could be looking at another pipeline whose integrity may be in question.”
Despite this precedent of spills, Keystone XL’s southern half is about to become a reality, with the fate of the border-crossing northern half of Keystone XL still resting in the hands of President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Looking Back at 2013: Photos of Climate Chaos, Natural Disasters, Heartache and Hope
Today, we wrap up 2013 with a slideshow of photographs taken this past year by DeSmog contributor Julie Dermansky. We’re grateful to have Julie on our team, and as you can see from her photographs, she witnessed some awe-inspiring and awful scenes in 2013.
A self-described Accidental Chronicler of Climate Change, Julie lives in New Orleans and has traveled the globe reporting on some of the most important stories of our times through her photojournalism and writing — Hurricanes Katrina and Ivan, Superstorm Sandy, earthquake-ravaged Haiti, the BP Gulf oil disaster, war-torn Iraq, genocide in Rwanda and lots more.
She joined DeSmogBlog in August, and quickly became an invaluable member of our team with her in-depth multimedia coverage of the Louisiana sinkhole, the battle over the southern half of Keystone XL, the fracking bonanza in Texas, the ongoing fallout of the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and more.
Sit back and take a journey through Julie’s lens as we remember some of the biggest disasters and climate stories of 2013.