Center for Biologic Diversity: Urgent: Tell the Senate to Stop Keystone XL Now

Keystone XL protest

We’ve reached a critical moment in our fight against the Keystone XL pipeline.

On Tuesday the U.S. Senate will decide whether to force through an approval of this dirty and dangerous project — and we urgently need your help to stop it.

The threat has never been so real. The usual Republican supporters of Keystone may be joined by some Democrats who are supported by Big Oil, and the vote will be very close to the 60 votes needed for a filibuster-proof majority. The House passed a similar bill yesterday.

If Keystone XL is approved, it will transport more than 800,000 barrels of toxic tar sands oil through the heartland of America each day — threatening our communities, water, wildlife and wild places. The pipeline will unlock the potential for a drastic increase in production of Canadian tar sands oil, one of the dirtiest fuels on the planet, and push us toward climate chaos for generations to come. The stakes couldn’t be higher.

Don’t let politicians beholden to oil interests hijack this decision. Please take two minutes to call your senators and urge them to vote no on S.2280 — or any bill that would approve Keystone XL.

You can reach your senators here if you live in Florida:

Sen. Bill Nelson
Sen. Marco Rubio

Otherwise, use the capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

Here’s a sample script you can use for your call:

Hello, my name is __________, and I’m from __________. I’m calling to urge the senator to vote no on S.2280 — or any bill that approves Keystone XL.

This dangerous, polluting project would threaten our air, water, wildlife and climate while providing no more than a few dozen permanent jobs.

There is a pending decision before the Nebraska Supreme Court about the legality of the pipeline’s route. This case should be heard, and the president should make the ultimate decision on whether the project is in the public interest.

Thank you.

Donate now to support the Center’s work.

Photo of Keystone XL protest by Tar Sands Action Why Obama Should Veto the Keystone XL Pipeline
by Matt Wilstein | 2:52 pm, November 14th, 2014 VIDEO 444

On Friday afternoon, the House of Representatives voted for the ninth time to approve a bill directing President Barack Obama to take action on the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Next Tuesday, the Senate will hold a similar vote that is expected to pass. But it is looking increasingly likely that Obama will veto the bill when it reaches his desk. And he should.

“I have to constantly push back against this idea that somehow the Keystone pipeline is either this massive jobs bill for the United States or is somehow lowering gas prices,” the president said at a press conference in Myanmar Friday morning. “Understand what this project is: It is providing the ability of Canada to pump their oil, send it through our land down to the Gulf where it will be sold everywhere else.”

Watch video below, via CNN:


Republicans in Congress — along with some Democrats like Mary Landrieu, who is now leading the charge for the pipeline in the Senate in a last ditch effort to save her seat — point to a State Department report that says the project will not have a major impact on greenhouse gas emissions because the Canadian oil is likely to be extracted at a similar rate with or without the pipeline. Meanwhile, they argue that it will create a large number of American jobs. Of course, for conservatives who don’t believe in man-made climate change, even one job is probably worth more any potential decrease in emissions.

But, as Obama said earlier today, Keystone is not some “massive jobs bill” that is going to solve America’s (diminishing) unemployment problem. Republicans love to cite the State Department report on the pipeline’s environmental impact, but you are not going to hear them talking as much about the section that covers job creation. That’s because while the report estimates the pipeline will create 42,100 jobs annually, only 16,100 of those are directly connected to the pipeline (the rest are predicted to be the result of a “ripple” effect of the project).

But as CBS News’ Amy Picchi points out in a piece published today, those jobs will only exist for the two years during which the pipeline is being built. After that, the State Department estimates there would only be 35 permanent employees needed for the operational phase.

And when the president stated that Keystone won’t lower gas prices, he could have also mentioned that it might actually raise them. In April, Bloomberg’s Tom Randall reported that “in Keystone’s weirdonomics, the pipeline would actually increase prices of gasoline for much of the country, according to at least three studies that have looked into it.” Basically, because the oil would be bypassing Midwest refineries in favor of the Gulf, where it can be shipped to more lucrative overseas markets, there will be less oil to be had here at home, therefore increasing prices for American consumers.

So, the Keystone XL pipeline will not create any long-term jobs and could actually make gas more expensive in the U.S. But what about the environmental impact? While the State Department has said that the project will likely not significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions, it definitely will not decrease them, which is what America and the rest of the world needs to be doing in order to avert the worst case scenarios of climate change. On top of that, construction of the pipeline greatly increases the risk of a massive oil spill on U.S. soil.

Ultimately, the Keystone XL pipeline represents more than a simple construction project. It is about the decision to move forward on renewable energy or remain stuck in the past for generations to come, extracting every last bit of crude oil out of the ground until there’s nothing left. As long as Obama is still president, he has the ability to send a message to world that despite the modest benefits Keystone might bring, it is not worth the risks and would send the United States down a long path in the wrong direction.

[Photo via screengrab]

350.0rg: Good news from Capitol Hill re: Keystone XL

by Jason Kowalski

May 8 (6 days ago)


I’ve spent the last week running around Washington DC talking to Senators and our allies on Capitol Hill to defeat the latest attempt to push Keystone XL through Congress.

Today I have some good news: it looks like this bill will be going down in defeat without ever coming to the floor. Thanks to your phone calls and work in the streets in key states across the US, Big Oil realized they didn’t have the votes to pass Keystone XL, and are pulling back.

What made the difference in this push was the work of organizers and our allies who stepped up to organize actions outside of key Senators’ offices, combined with the flood of phone calls to DC offices that showed that the opposition to Keystone XL remains as strong as ever.

Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida is in a strange position: he says he believes in climate science, but also says he supports the pipeline. However, after we shut down his DC phone lines w calls, and held an action in front of his Miami office, Sen. Nelson did some mental gymnastics to swing our way. He’s now saying that he supports Keystone but *only* if 100% of the oil stays in the US, which he knows is a condition that Big Oil refuses to accept. This should be much simpler: either Sen. Nelson believes in climate science, or he wants to build a giant tar sands pipeline. He should be taking a stronger stand.

Just the threat of more actions from our network was enough to move some Senators off the fence — which is a very high compliment to our work. Don’t take my word for it though: here are just a few of the news articles about the vote that pay tribute to the work of organizers and our allies:

“Keystone Pipeline Backers, Opponents Spar Ahead Of Vote,” Associated Press, May 5th

“Senators push Keystone XL vote for political gain,” The Ed Show, May 7th.

“Denver Calls on Colorado Senators to Reject the Keystone XL Pipeline,” EcoWatch, May 8th.

“KXL Activists Blast Pro-Keystone Dems in Senate” Common Dreams, May 5th.

Of course, it’s always possible that there will be new attempts to push the pipeline through Congress. But every time they fail, it makes the next push more difficult for Big Oil. In the weird world of Washington, this is what progress looks like, and you are an essential part of making it happen.

High fives all around,


Common Dreams: Solar Warriors vs. the Black Snake of Tar Sands
Published on Tuesday, April 22, 2014
by Winona LaDuke

Henry Red Cloud. (Photo: are two very different ways of recognizing Earth Day In the Northern Plains and Washington, perhaps illustrating, what Native people call the choice between two paths, one well scorched and worn, the other green.

This past week, Henry Red Cloud, a descendent of Chief Red Cloud and President of Lakota Solar Enterprises, was recognized as a Champion of Change by President Obama for his leadership in renewable energy. Red Cloud’s work has included installation of over 1000 solar thermal heating units on houses in tribal communities across the Northern Plains. Those units can reduce heating bills by almost one quarter, and cost, less than $2000 to install. The solar thermal panels harken a future with less reliance on propane and fossil fuels, something which proved deadly this winter, as the price skyrocketed, and many homes spent at least that amount to heat.

Henry Red Cloud is one of many Lakota people who has been in DC this past month, and a large number of other Oglala tribal members will descend on Washington for the Cowboys Indians Alliance encampment against the Keystone XL pipeline. Henry Red Cloud sees solar energy as a way to “honor the old ways in the new times,” and address some of the fuel poverty which is rampant in northern plains and north woods first nations, in an era of petroleum, replacing natural fuels. Annually tribes are forced to pay hundreds of millions of dollars of propane bills, to keep houses warm, and fuel poverty is when tribal members have to choose between heating or eating. “Last year, more than five million was spent on propane and electricity to keep our members warm,” Red Cloud explained. “We can take that money and turn it around, start some businesses.”

Solar thermal heat, not only keeps people warm, reducing the hemorrhage of fuel bills but it circulates money into a local economy. The solar panels are made on the reservation, and the Red Cloud Renewable Energy center near Oglala, on the reservation employs nine full time workers and several part time workers in the busy season. That is money helping a community and rebuilding infrastructure in that community.

According to Henry Red Cloud and many others is what we need to do. After all, about 14% of reservation households are without electricity, 10 times the national rate. Energy distribution systems on rural reservations are extremely vulnerable to extended power outages during winter storms, threatening the lives of reservation residents. Reservation communities are at a statistically greater risk from extreme weather related mortality nationwide, especially from cold, heat and drought associated with a rapidly changing climate. Reservations need more than 200,000 new houses, and there is no money for them, and Pine Ridge, Henry’s home may be one of the most impacted areas. This is also the home of strong opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, also known as the “fat takers pipeline,” by the Lakota people. Brian Brewer, president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, told press, “No Keystone XL Black Snake Pipeline will cross Lakota Lands. We will protect our lands and waters and we have our horses ready…”

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline, will put in infrastructure as well. As Henry and others point out, that infrastructure will not change the conditions for most people in the northern plains, whom the pipeline will pass. Employment will not be local, or of long term. The man camps of a thousand men will move in, buy some things, stay at hotels, and then move on. And the infrastructure will not improve for the people.

The $7 billion price tag of the Keystone XL was studied in a recent report by Economics for Equity and the Environment. The study found that spending money on unmet water and gas infrastructure needs in the five relevant states along the KXL pipeline route will create more than 300,000 total jobs across all sectors, or five times more jobs than the KXL, with ninety five times more long term jobs. Spending money on the infrastructure in this country, which has received a D + rating from the national engineers, would provide more jobs, and more benefits to American people over the long term, like infrastructure which does not leak or blow up.

In his State of the Union address, President Obama noted that last year the amount of solar power installed in the U.S. has increased around eleven fold—from 1.2 gigawatts in 2008 to an estimated 13 gigawatts in 2014. Solar thermal is even less expensive and applicable to many south facing walls. Last June, President Obama announced a comprehensive Climate Action Plan to cut carbon pollution and advance the clean energy economy. As part of that Plan, the President set a goal to double solar, wind, and geothermal electricity generation by 2020 and to more than triple the onsite renewable energy production in federally assisted residential buildings.

The simple elegance of local power, solar energy and working to benefit communities, not corporations, is a good lesson for Earth Day.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License
Winona LaDuke

Winona Laduke, Executive Director of Honor the Earth, is an author, activist, former US vice presidential candidate, and mother. She is an Anishinaabekwe (Ojibwe) enrolled member of the Mississippi Band Anishinaabeg who lives and works on the White Earth Reservations. She has led a series of horseback rides along tar sands pipeline routes that pass through her people’s treaty areas in North Dakota.

Common Dreams: Study: Fracking Emissions Up To 1000x Higher Than EPA Estimates

Published on Tuesday, April 15, 2014
New report suggests highly potent greenhouse gas far more prevalent in gas production than previously thought
– Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

Marcellus Shale Gas Well, Lawrence County, Penn. (Flickr / WCN247 / Creative Commons license)

Natural gas drilling is emitting far higher levels of methane into the atmosphere than federal regulators at the Environmental Protection Agency have said, according to the findings of a new study released Monday.

“We identified a significant regional flux of methane over a large area of shale gas wells in southwestern Pennsylvania in the Marcellus formation and further identified several pads with high methane emissions,” said the report, conducted by a team of scientists led by Purdue University and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

While past EPA studies have said gas well sites emit as little as between 0.04 and 0.30 grams of methane per second, this new study found numbers between 100 to 1,000 times higher than what the EPA has calculated, with levels closer to 34 grams of methane per second at some of the Pennsylvania sites. Methane is up to 30 times stronger than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.

Of particular curiosity for the research team was the fact that the highest levels of methane were coming from well sites that were being preliminarily drilled for production, but had not yet gone through the controversial gas production process known as fracking.

“The methane emissions from the gas wells … are surprisingly high considering that all of these wells were still being drilled, had not yet been hydraulically fractured, and were not yet in production,” the paper reports.

“Methane plumes might be the result of drilling through coal beds,” said the study, “which are known to release large amounts of methane when mined. Fracking sites in the Marcellus Shale formation are commonly located over coal beds.”

As the Los Angeles Times reports, Monday’s findings add to “a growing body of research that suggests the EPA is gravely underestimating methane emissions from oil and gas operations.” The EPA’s research has largely been subject to the whims of the industry, the researchers noted, which has a say over where and when the agency has access to drilling sites. Monday’s Purdue report, on the other hand, used a plane equipped with technology to measure greenhouse gas levels in the air above the sites.

Meanwhile, the EPA released its own new set of methane information on Tuesday with a series of technical white papers detailing the sources of methane emissions in the oil and gas industry. The agency also opened a public comment period, which will be used—alongside peer reviewed input—”to determine how to best pursue additional reductions from these sources.”

The EPA said the white papers, which detail five main sources of methane leakage in the fossil fuel industry—natural gas compressors, hydraulic fracturing for oil, natural gas production, removing liquids in gas wells and pneumatic devices used in the gas industry—are designed to help the agency “solidify [its] understanding of certain sources of methane and volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions in the oil and natural gas industry.”


Common Dreams: In Small Canadian Town Democracy Wins, Tar Sands Loses; Kitimat, British Columbia’s ‘no’ vote follows widespread opposition to Northern Gateway

Published on Monday, April 14, 2014

– Andrea Germanos, staff writer

Photo: Stephen Boyle/cc/flickrIn a vote cheered as a victory for democracy, one community in British Columbia has given a flat rejection to a proposed tar sands pipeline.

Over 58 percent of voters who headed to the polls in the North Coast municipality of Kitimat on Saturday said “no” to Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project.

That project would include a pipeline to carry tar sands crude from near Edmonton, Alberta to Kitimat.

CBC News reports that

Kitimat is the community most affected by the $6.5-billion project, because as the endpoint for the pipeline bringing bitumen from Alberta, it would house a marine terminal where the supertankers would load up.

“The people have spoken. That’s what we wanted — it’s a democratic process,” Kitimat Mayor Joanne Monaghan said in a statement following the vote. “We’ll be talking about this Monday night at Council, and then we’ll go from there with whatever Council decides.”

One group welcoming the rejection is the Dogwood Initiative, a B.C.-based group that advocates for decision-making power for environmental decisions to be in the hands of the people.

“This shows what happens when you actually give people the chance to vote on Enbridge’s proposal,” stated Kai Nagata, Energy & Democracy Director with the group.

The rejection was also a reflection of voter awareness of the environmental threats posed by the Northern Gate, according to the B.C.-based Raincoast Conservation Foundation.

“The vote in Kitimat illustrates how acutely aware British Columbians are that our province’s coast, which hosts incomparable land and seascapes, is in imminent jeopardy from the proposed export of diluted bitumen from Alberta’s tar sands to the oil industry’s global markets by the threat of a catastrophic Exxon Valdez type spill, as well as a host of other impacts,” said Chris Genovali, Executive Director of Raincoast.

“For example, the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project will result in increased tanker traffic and vessel noise through sensitive and productive waters, impoverishing critical habitat for numerous species of threatened and endangered whales. Additionally, the chronic oiling accompanying Northern Gateway’s tankers and terminal will likely slowly degrade habitat and water quality to the point where near-shore environments are no longer productive or capable of supporting nurseries for wild salmon, one of B.C.’s greatest natural assets,” said Genovali.

Photo: Neal Jennings/cc/flickrIn December 2013, a federal Joint Review Panel (JRP) gave its recommendation to approve the pipeline, but that approval prompted backlash from environmental groups, including ForestEthics Advocacy and Living Oceans Society, who say the approval was made without taking into consideration the full environmental impacts of the project. The groups, representing by Ecojustice, have filed suit to block the JRP’s report from being used as a basis for full federal approval of the project.

“The panel cannot consider the so-called economic benefits of oilsands expansion tied to this pipeline but ignore the adverse impacts that expansion will have on climate change, endangered wildlife and ecosystems,” stated Nikki Skuce, senior energy campaigner with ForestEthics Advocacy, when their lawsuit was filed.

A resounding “No” for the pipeline was also heard this past Friday, when, as the Globe and Mail reports,

A group of First Nations with territory covering a quarter of the route for the proposed Northern Gateway oil pipeline met with federal representatives Friday to officially reject the project.

The First Nations representatives said there is no more debate, as they banned the pipeline under their traditional laws.

“We do not, we will not, allow this pipeline,” the Globe and Mail reports Peter Erickson, a hereditary chief of the Nak’azdli First Nation, as telling the bureaucrats. “We’re going to send the message today to the federal government and to the company itself: Their pipeline is dead. Under no circumstances will that proposal be allowed.”

“Their pipeline is now a pipe dream,” Erickson added.

Nagata’s group is saying that all British Columbians should have a vote on the Northern Gateway.

“This project would have serious ramifications for the whole province, so all British Columbians deserve to vote on it,” said Nagata. “That should extend far beyond just speaking to a panel or writing your local newspaper. Regardless of whether you support this proposal, the decision should be made by British Columbians.”

To help make this happen, the Dogwood Initiative has launched a new website,, to harness the province’s direct democracy laws by gathering the signatures of at least 10 per cent of the registered voters to get the issue onto a ballot.

A federal review panel is expected to give its final decision on Enbridge’s project in June.


Common Dreams via Oil Industry Conjures Illusion of Public Support for KXL Using ALEC Politicians
Published on Wednesday, March 12, 2014 by
by Nick Surgey

keystone pipeline protestors
According to documents obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), the American Petroleum Institute (API) and other oil industry groups have been directing state legislators to make public and legislative statements in favor of the pipeline project. Millions of U.S. citizens have voiced their opposition to the Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline in recent months, with more than 2 million public comments opposing the project hand delivered to the State Department last week. At the same time, hundreds of state legislators have been lining up in favor of KXL, seemingly just as passionate and as heartfelt as those opposed to the project. But many legislators have been tasked with promoting the project by oil industry lobbyists who provide them with model bills, talking points and draft op-eds.

According to documents obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), the American Petroleum Institute (API) and other oil industry groups have been directing state legislators to make public and legislative statements in favor of the pipeline project, and have provided legislators with draft legislation, language for op-eds and testimony to be presented as their own. Central to these efforts is the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), through which lobbyists — such as those from API — can meet in secret with state legislators from across the country.
Consumer Energy Alliance Gives Marching Orders at ALEC

During the most recent annual ALEC meeting in August 2013, held in downtown Chicago, oil-industry lobbyist Michael Whatley provided legislators at the group’s International Relations Task Force meeting with a briefing on the KXL pipeline, urging legislators for their help in getting the project approved. Whatley — a lobbyist for the Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA) — has regularly attended ALEC meetings in recent years, and has presented to the organization on KXL in the past. CEA receives funding from the two leading U.S. oil lobby groups — the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) — and lists among its members leading oil companies, including ExxonMobil, Shell and BP amongst many others. Whatley’s lobbying firm HBW Resources also has a somewhat unexplained relationship with the Alberta Government – see Salon.

According to the internal minutes from the ALEC meeting provided to CMD, Whatley called on legislators to help push the pipeline project to approval. Much as environmental groups view KXL as being a line in the sand, as symbolic of how serious the Obama administration is about tackling climate change, the oil industry considers the project to be a possible harbinger of things to come. “We’re very concerned about the precedential impact of this refusal,” Whatley told the group.

Whatley and CEA have briefed ALEC legislators on Keystone before. When speaking at the group’s conference in Arizona in December 2011, Whatley gave a presentation to the International Relations task force, titled “Keystone XL – A Critical Project for America.”

At the 2013 meeting, Whatley explained to legislators that it was important for the State Department to hear their individual support for KXL. “It is crucial that they hear from state legislators” said Whatley. “We will have information for you to submit letters to the State Department.”

In recent months, state legislators seem to have heeded the industry’s marching orders.

On February 13, 2014, 75 state legislators from Michigan, led by ALEC member Aric Nessbit, wrote to the State Department calling for the pipeline to be approved. Then on March 4, 2014, a letter was sent from 29 State Senators in Nebraska, led by Senator Jim Smith, who has been a vocal and controversial figure in the fight for Keystone XL in his state. Smith was one of nine state legislators to attend a 2012 ALEC Academy trip to Alberta to view the tar sands — a trip organized by CEA through ALEC and funded by TransCanada.

Letters supporting Keystone were also sent from state elected officials from the Kentucky Senate, Ohio Senate, Ohio House of Representatives, Texas Assembly and the Wisconsin Assembly as well as letters from Governors in Wisconsin, Mississippi, Montana and Maine.
ALEC Pushes State Resolutions as Oil Industry Ghostwrites Opinion Pieces for Legislators

So far, in the 2014 session, legislative resolutions supporting the pipeline have been introduced in Kansas, Missouri and Florida. That’s in addition to resolutions introduced in Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio and South Dakota during 2013.

ALEC has encouraged its members to introduce its own “model” legislation supporting KXL, titled the “Resolution in Support of the Keystone XL Pipeline.” Since that language was written in 2011, ALEC told its members by email in 2012: “If you would like to introduce a similar resolution in your state legislature, we have suggestions to update it given all that has happened.” The bills that have appeared since then have varied in language somewhat, with the updated version alluded to in the ALEC email not yet made public. Many of the pro-KXL bills introduced in 2013 and 2014 closely follow a set of TransCanada’s own talking points, as CMD has previously reported.

Since many of these states do not allow for much disclosure through state public record laws, it is difficult to fully document the influence of oil industry lobbyists. However, what can be documented is extremely revealing of their role.

CMD previously reported on the pro-KXL resolutions in the 2013 session in a series of articles, including reporting about Rep. John Adams from Ohio who, after attending an ALEC/TransCanada trip to Alberta, was asked by ALEC to send “thank you notes” to the lobbyists who paid for the trip and took him for dinner. As CMD documented, not long afterward, Rep. Adams introduced a pro-KXL resolution provided to him by a TransCanada lobbyist.

In Florida, freshman representative Walter Bryan ”Mike” Hill sponsored a pro-Keystone resolution, HM 281 in December 2013. Laying the ground for his bill, in December Hill published an opinion piece in the Pensacola News Journal in Florida, his local newspaper.

According to emails obtained by CMD under the Florida Public Records law, the language for Hill’s opinion piece came directly from API lobbyist David Mica, who sent Hill’s staff member, Ryan Gorham, a draft version on November 26th. “I have ideas for distribution… please give me a holler,” wrote Mica attaching the draft.

An hour later, Gorham emailed the draft opinion piece to Hill. According to the exchange, the only change made by Hill and his staff was to spot a missing preposition in one sentence — the word “to” had been left out. The piece was published under Hill’s name on December 27, 2013. Staff from API and related projects funded by the organization such as “Energy Tomorrow” celebrated the piece on social media. A very proud — but oh so modest — David Mica tweeted: “@MikeHillfl nails his op-ed viewpoint! Way to go Representative Hill.”

This industry-legislator-opinion strategy was explicitly expressed in August 2013 by CEA’s Whatley at the ALEC conference in Chicago. According to ALEC’s own meeting minutes, obtained by CMD, Whatley called on ALEC legislators to publish op-eds in support of the project. “Put an op-ed in any paper in your district talking about the positive values of Keystone XL,” Whatley said. ALEC has also directly asked its members to publicly speak out in support of Keystone. In a 2012 email to members, Karla Jones, Director of International and Federal Relations, wrote: “Senator Pam Roach has been quoted in the media about Keystone, and I would like to encourage and provide information to any of you that would like to do the same.”
Politicians Parrot Industry Talking Points, “Part of a Nationwide Effort to Show Washington States Support the Pipeline”

In July 2013, Jim Snyder, who was writing for Bloomberg, reported on a dozen Republican federal and state lawmakers repeating the same talking points from CEA in letters they sent to the State Department during its previous review of the Keystone XL project in 2013:

“In doing so, they (the lawmakers) often pointed to the same facts and the used the same language. ‘Keystone XL will be critical to improving American energy security and boosting our economy,’ Representative Steve Stivers of Ohio wrote. So did Representative Jackie Walorski of Indiana. And Steve Daines of Montana. And John Carter of Texas. And Phil Gingrey of Georgia.

The wording similarities aren’t coincidental. The letters are all based on correspondence written by the Consumer Energy Alliance, a Washington-based coalition of energy producers and users, including Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) in Irving, Texas, and Dow Chemical Co. (DOW) in Midland, Michigan.”

Those talking points appeared again during a hearing for the pro-KXL resolution in Kansas HCR 5014. The bill sponsor, Rep. Hedke’s testimony to the Kansas State Senate Utilities Committee on February 13, 2014, parroted the same CEA language, writing: “Keystone XL will be critical to improving American energy security and boosting our economy.” CMD asked Hedke for a comment on the source of his testimony, but as of publication the representative had not responded.

When not working as a legislator, Hedke runs a company called Hedke-Saenger Geoscience, which according to the representative’s most recent financial disclosures feature a long list of oil industry clients including Hess Oil Company, Prospect Oil, Landmark Resources, and Trans Pacific Oil Corp.

Hedke told CMD by email that he was given the initial language for his resolution by a lobbyist from the Kansas API affiliate, before he “passed it out for reviews with numerous individuals, including a lobbyist representing TransCanada.”

At the hearing, Ken Peterson, Executive Director of the Kansas Petroleum Council (the API affiliate) stated as part of his testimony that “(t)his resolution is part of a nationwide effort to show Washington that states support the pipeline.” Truer words have never been spoken. API and the organizations that it funds including CEA have been working tirelessly behind the scenes to create the impression of a groundswell of passionate opposition to KXL.
© 2014 Center for Media & Democracy
Nick Surgey

Nick Surgey is director of research for the Center for Media & Democracy. He work has been featured in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, and The Guardian.

Common Dreams: Keystone XL to be Much Worse for Climate than State Department Says: Report. Key report refutes State Department Keystone XL review
Published on Tuesday, March 4, 2014
– Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer


Overpass Light Brigade ‏holds this #XLDissent message in front of White House Mar 2, 2014. (Photo via Twitter / @OLBLightBrigade)The development of the Keystone XL pipeline would have far greater ramifications for the climate than was highlighted in the State Department’s recently released final environmental impact analysis, says the The Carbon Tracker Initiative in a report released Monday.

The State Department’s Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (FSEIS), which was released on January 31, says the pipeline “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,” indicating that Canadian tar sands would be extracted at the same rate whether or not the pipeline was built, due to an increase of oil-by-rail transport.

However, according to Carbon Tracker’s calculations, which took a different look at the cost-benefit analysis of the Keystone XL pipeline for the companies involved, the presence of the pipeline will actually decrease transportation costs for oil producers and would thus enable the increase of tar sands extraction by as much as 525,000 barrels of oil per day. This increase, the group warns, will greatly accelerate the rate of carbon pollution pouring into the atmosphere, and will significantly worsen climate change.

“In my view, ‘significance’ is in the eye of the beholder,” the report’s co-author Mark Fulton, former climate change strategist for Deutsche Bank, told The Huffington Post.

By 2050, this increase in tar sands production would produce an additional 5.3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide, the group holds—roughly the same that would be emitted if the U.S. built an additional 46 coal-fired power plants and as much as the country’s current overall annual carbon emissions.

“One key takeaway of this analysis is that the scenarios modeled in the FSEIS appear incompatible with a 2°C carbon constrained world,” the report states in reference to the goal agreed upon by international leaders at the 2009 climate summit in Copenhagen of limiting global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius.

As the report highlights, in a June 2013 speech at Georgetown University President Obama said he would approve the pipeline “only if this project doesn’t significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.”

If Obama only looks to the scientists who conducted the FSEIS, the pipeline is likely to pass Obama’s requirements.

On Sunday, hundreds of students were arrested in the largest single day of civil disobedience throughout the Keystone XL “saga,” protest organizers said.

Over 1,200 students conducted a mass sit-in in front of the White House, demanding the Obama administration reject Keystone.


National Review: Keystone XL pipeline protesters tie themselves to White House fence as police arrest dozens of people, photos

Emily Stephenson, Reuters | March 2, 2014 6:38 PM ET

Several hundred students and youth who marched from Georgetown University to the White House to protest the Keystone XL Pipeline are arrested outside the White House in Washington, Sunday, March 2, 2014.

XL Pipeline Protest
AP Photo/Susan WalshSeveral hundred students and youth who marched from Georgetown University to the White House to protest the Keystone XL Pipeline are arrested outside the White House in Washington, Sunday, March 2, 2014.

Police arrested dozens of young people protesting the Keystone XL project on Sunday, as demonstrators fastened themselves with plastic ties to the White House fences and called for U.S. President Barack Obama to reject the controversial oil pipeline.

Participants, who mostly appeared to be college-aged, held signs reading “There is no planet B” and “Columbia says no to fossil fuels,” referring to the university in New York.

Another group, several of whom were clad in white jumpsuits splattered with black ink that was meant to represent oil, lay down on a black tarp spread out on Pennsylvania Avenue to stage a mock spill.
Keystone XL Pipeline Protest
AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

AP Photo/Manuel Balce CenetaProtesters who are strapped to the White House fence in Washington, chant during a protest against the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, Sunday, March 2, 2014.

Organizers estimated 1,000 people protested and said several hundred agreed to risk arrest by refusing to leave the sidewalk in front of the White House.

“If the Democratic Party wants to keep our vote, they better make sure President Obama rejects that pipeline,” said Nick Stracco, a 23-year-old student at Tulane University in New Orleans.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall says Keystone sales pitch hindered by lax greenhouse regulations
John Ivison: Keystone pipeline not likely to be approved until after Obama, former Tory minister says
If Barack Obama doesn’t approve the Keystone pipeline, another president will, says Stephen Harper
Keystone XL environmental review didn’t breach rules: U.S. Inspector General

Canadian energy firm TransCanada Corp is behind the proposed pipeline that would carry crude from Alberta’s oil sands to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast. Supporters say it would create thousands of jobs.

The project already weathered a State Department environmental review, which was required because the project would cross international borders. Several other agencies also are doing reviews, and Obama has final say.

Environmental groups, who fear oil spills along the pipeline and say it could hasten climate change, have staged a number of protests at the White House over Keystone.
APTOPIX Keystone XL Pipeline Protest


Alex Smiley, Katy Hellman

Keystone XL Pipeline Protest

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty ImagesStudents protesting against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline chant slogans in front of the White House in Washington,DC on March 2, 2014.

Sunday’s event, which was planned by students with support from environmental groups and the Energy Action Coalition, began with a rally at Georgetown University, where Obama unveiled a new climate change plan last summer.

The group marched to the White House, where police began arresting protesters, pulling them aside in small groups into tents set up on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Organizers said they intended to remind the White House that young people are a key voting demographic of the president’s party and their peers do not want to inherit environmental damage caused by current leaders.

“Our future is on the line. The climate is on the line,” said Aly Johnson-Kurts, 20, who is taking a year off from Smith College in Massachusetts. She said she had decided to get arrested on Sunday. “When do we say we’ve had enough?”

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Common Dreams: Reaction to State Department Inspector General Report on KXL–This Sunday, nearly 1,000 youth will protest outside Secretary Kerry’s house in Washington before risking arrest in a sit-in at the White House

February 27, 2014
8:05 AM


WASHINGTON – February 27 – Pipeline opponents are pledging to turn up the heat on Secretary Kerry in reaction to the State Department’s Inspector General report. The report confirms that the State Department knowingly hired a tar sands industry contractor to assess the Keystone XL pipeline’s environmental impact, but deems such dirty dealings business as usual.

“The real scandal in Washington is how much is legal,” said co-founder Bill McKibben. “This process has stunk start to finish. It’s good that its now in the hands of the Secretary Kerry and President Obama so there’s at least an outside chance of a decision not based on cronyism.”

“Far from exonerating the State Department of wrongdoing, the Inspector General report simply concludes that such dirty dealings are business as usual,” said Policy Director Jason Kowalski. “While allowing a member of the American Petroleum Institute to review a tar sands oil pipeline may technically be legal, it’s by no means responsible. Secretary Kerry and President Obama can let their climate legacies be tarred by this dirty process or they can do the right thing and reject the Keystone XL pipeline once and for all.”

This Sunday, nearly 1,000 young people will rally outside of Secretary Kerry’s house in Washington with a banner that reads “Secretary Kerry: Don’t Tar Your Climate Legacy,” before marching to the White House, where at least 300 youth are expected to risk arrest in an act of civil disobedience.

Secretary Kerry had a long record as a climate champion as a Senator from Massachusetts and recently called climate disruption the world’s most dangerous weapon of mass destruction. He has yet to express a position on the Keystone XL pipeline.

More information about the XL Dissent weekend of action can be found below.

State Impact–Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas: Fracking with Acid: Unknown Quantities Injected in Texas

FEBRUARY 12, 2014 | 6:30 AM

Acid solutions are trucked to drill sites and injected deep underground

Read about the history of oil drilling in Texas and you’ll find references to how wildcatters would pour barrels of hydrochloric acid into their wells. The acid would eat through underground rock formations and allow more oil to flow up the well.

That was decades ago. While a lot has changed in the drilling industry since then, using acid has not. It’s only gotten bigger. And in Texas, no one seems to have any idea of just how much hydrochloric, acetic, or hydrofluoric acid is being pumped into the ground.

“During my years with Shell, we did not have to go to the Railroad Commission [the state oil and gas regulator] to get approval for an acid job,” said Joe Dunn Clegg, a retired engineer who now teaches at the University of Houston. In his well drilling class, you’ll learn all about what the oil and gas industry calls acidizing.

Acidizing involves pumping hundreds of gallons of an acid solution down a well to dissolve rock formations blocking the flow of oil. After a number of hours, the solution is then brought back up to the surface and handled as a waste product.

In what’s called matrix acidizing, the solution is injected at a lower pressure so that it dissolves rather than fractures the rock formations, explained Clegg. But he said acidizing is also used in conjunction with high-pressure hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”
“I consider it a relatively safe operation. But it does involve handling acid, which you don’t want to spill on yourself,” said Clegg.

In fact, in 2011, a drilling industry group issued a “safety alert” warning of the dangers of pumping acid solutions at drilling sites.

No Statewide Data
Acidizing remains largely unregulated in Texas. According to the Railroad Commission of Texas, drilling operators are required to report the use of acid, but spokesperson Ramona Nye told StateImpact Texas in an email that the commission doesn’t track the data. Therefore, the commission said it couldn’t provide statewide data for how much or what types of acids are injected into wells annually, nor can the commission determine what counties have the highest amounts of acidizing.

Texas lawmakers passed a bill in 2011 that now requires drilling operators to report some chemicals used in the fracking process. But the bill doesn’t mention acidizing, and one of its authors said the technique wasn’t even on their radar.

“Acidizing is not nearly as widely discussed as fracking. It could in fact be as problematic as the fracking,” says Rep. Lon Burnam, a Democrat from Fort Worth. He’s a frequent critic of the drilling operations that have taken off dramatically in his district over the last decade.

New Acidizing Law in California
One place where acidizing has attracted more discussion is California. Though the state ranks fourth for oil production, far behind Texas (which leads the country), it’s got reason to be cautious: California has bigger earthquakes than Texas.

“What happens if there’s another earthquake and you’re injecting acid down into the shale? I just think those are questions no one has answered,” said Kate Gordon, Director of the Energy and Climate Program for Next Generation, a climate change and family advocacy group based in San Francisco.

“It’s hard to hear about acid going into the ground under the state’s major aquifers and not be a little freaked out by it,” Gordon told StateImpact Texas.

Next Generation commissioned a report on acidizing and supported a California law that took effect last month. It regulates fracking and acidizing, requiring drillers to alert adjacent landowners and monitor groundwater.

“Oil is very important to both Texas and California. I get that. It’s a big part of our state GDP. But we should have an honest and fact-based conversation about what it means to be getting at this stuff,” said Gordon.

Gordon couldn’t point to any drilling sites where groundwater has been contaminated by acidizing in California. And in Texas, a statewide inventory of groundwater contamination does not list any instances of acid contamination linked to drilling. Both the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Railroad Commission of Texas said they know of no such cases.

Drilling Industry: It Only Sounds Bad
Halliburton and Baker Hughes are among the big drilling services companies that provide “well stimulation” that includes acidizing. An industry group, the Independent Petroleum Association of America, said that the term acidizing is a “harsh” sounding word that makes an easy target for critics. But Steve Everly, a spokesperson for Energy In Depth, an industry-funded research and publicity arm of the association, said environmental groups “don’t know what they’re talking about.”

“This is a technology that has been used in the oil fields since before we had a federal income tax. According to countless energy professionals across the country, who have been stimulating wells their entire careers, it’s a safe and well-understood process,” Everly wrote in an email to StateImpact Texas

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Inside Climate: U.S. Keystone Report Relied Heavily on Alberta Govt-Funded Research State Department review used studies funded by Alberta agencies and carried out by Jacobs Consultancy, a subsidiary of a major tar sands developer

By John H. Cushman Jr., InsideClimate News
Feb 7, 2014

Alberta Premier Alison Redford during a speech in Calgary in November 2013. Alberta goverment agencies devoted to expanding oil sands development funded research that was used by the State Department in its environmental review of the Keystone XL pipeline. Credit: Chris Schwarz

The analysis of greenhouse gas emissions presented by the State Department in its new environmental impact statement on the Keystone XL pipeline includes dozens of references to reports by Jacobs Consultancy, a group that is owned by a big tar sands developer and that was hired by the Alberta government-which strongly favors the project.

In the end, the environmental review took into account much of the Jacobs group’s work-though not quite as much as the Alberta government wanted. The State Department report will play a crucial role in the Obama administration’s decision about whether to approve the Canada-to-Texas tar sands pipeline.

The Jacobs Consultancy is a subsidiary of Jacobs Engineering, a giant natural resources development company with extensive operations in Alberta’s tar sands fields. The engineering company has worked on dozens of major projects in the region over the years. Its most recent contract, with Canadian oil sands leader Suncor, was announced in January.

“The Alberta Oil Sands are a very important component of our business,” the parent company said in late 2011, announcing seven new contracts in the region. “Jacobs has a strong history in the area, and we are pleased to support our clients in these initiatives.”
Jacobs’s deep involvement with the expansion of the tar sands extends beyond its engineering activity. Jacobs Consultancy has carried out influential studies assessing the oil sands’ carbon footprint-research that has played a role in in the Obama administration’s review of the Keystone XL.

Two of its widely cited reports were paid for by government agencies in Alberta that are devoted to oil sands expansion.

One, done in 2009, was among a handful of studies chosen by the State Department in its Jan. 31 environmental impact statement to represent a range of estimates of the tar sands’ greenhouse gas impact.

As a rule, the Jacobs carbon footprint estimates of the tar sands oil that would move through the Keystone XL were considerably lower than alternative estimates produced by the U.S. National Energy Technology Laboratory, or NETL, which is part of the Energy Department and is independent of tar sands commercial interests.

Rather than choose a single figure, the State Department presented a range of estimates. Compared to other sources of oil, it said, annual incremental emissions of tar sands oil moving from Alberta to the Gulf Coast through the Keystone would fall between 1.3 million tons of carbon dioxide and 27.4 million tons.

The 1.3 million figure came from Jacobs; the 27.4 million figure from NETL.
A spokesman for Jacobs did not return a call.

The research is significant because President Obama has said he will base his decision on whether the project will “significantly exacerbate” climate-changing pollution.
Alberta has made extensive use of the Jacobs data when its officials have lobbied governments and politicians against imposing strict limits on tar sands imports because of the fuel’s heavy carbon footprint, including in California and in Europe.

The Jacobs Factor
Jacobs may be an unfamiliar name to the public, but it is one of the best-known and often-cited sources by researchers studying the emissions of carbon dioxide from the tar sands and how they compare to other types of fuel. The Congressional Research Service, for example, cited the Jacobs studies in its own survey of the tar sands’ carbon footprint, and they have figured in past environmental impact statements about other tar sands pipelines.

When Alberta sent the State Department its official comments last year seeking tweaks to the Keystone draft environmental report, which was still under review, the name Jacobs occurred two dozen times, on six of the Canadian letter’s 19 pages.

Alberta’s repeated invocations of the Jacobs group’s expert opinions centered on the two influential studies the group wrote in recent years, one published in 2009 and the other in 2012. Both had to do with measuring the carbon footprint of Canada’s tar sands crude oil.
The 2009 study, in particular, has been widely cited since its publication in just about every report examining how much dirtier the tar sands fuel is than other fuels from anywhere in the world.

In the State Department’s final environmental impact statement, as in the draft, the Jacobs group’s work is mentioned repeatedly in the same breath as work by the National Energy Technology Laboratory.

But as Alberta’s government sought to influence the conclusions in the lead-up to the crucial final State Department review, provincial officials wanted the contractors writing the agency’s environmental study to pay more attention to the 2012 Jacobs study than the 2009 one.

The 2012 study contained more recent data, the Canadians pointed out.
It also presented a prettier picture of pollution from the tar sands as compared to pollution from other sources of oil.

Alberta’s government also wanted the State Department in its final review to correct one citation of Jacobs in its bibliographic list of references. It had to do with who funded the 2012 study.

The citation said the 2012 study, like the 2009 study, had been conducted for the Alberta Energy Research Institute, an arm of the provincial government sponsoring research on behalf of tar sands enterprises.

Not so, Alberta noted. Rather, the later work had been commissioned by the Alberta Petroleum Marketing Commission, the province’s other arm-devoted to pushing tars sands as well.

Either way, Alberta had been paying for research to advance its strategic interest in producing more oil from the tar sands and shipping it to more new markets.

That has been a traditional role for Jacobs. Often, its work has been cited-twisted, according to some pipeline opponents-by the governments of Alberta and Canada or by sympathetic research institutes to further the cause of expanding the tar sands and building new corridors for sending its oil abroad, such as the Keystone XL.

Alberta Half Loses
In the end, the final environmental impact statement for the Keystone XL pipeline leaned more heavily on Jacobs’s 2009 study than the 2012 one preferred by Alberta.

The 2009 study was deemed more useful for dealing with the Keystone XL situation, as it compared Canadian crude oil to typical U.S. crudes. The 2012 study was more useful in Canada’s fight to tear down the European Union’s fuel quality directive, a law that would effectively discourage tar sands shipments to refineries in Europe if is carried out.

“Because Jacobs Consultancy (2012) focuses on the European market, this analysis continued to use Jacobs Consultancy (2009),” the final State Department report explained in a footnote.

Either way, the Jacobs work was meant to play down the carbon footprint of tar sands fuels by emphasizing factors that would tend to depress any calculations of the pollution burden.
In its 2009 document, Jacobs explained that previous studies of the carbon footprint of tar sands-such as one by the firm Farrel & Sperling that found the footprint of tar sands fuel to be 41 percent higher than other grades-had neglected to consider various factors that would make the picture look less stark.

Jacobs was hired, it said in the 2009 report, to provide a “fair and balanced” assessment for purposes of countering California’s low carbon fuel standard, which inhibits sales of high carbon fuel like Alberta’s.

That assignment came from Alberta Energy Research Institute, now operating under the name “Alberta Innovates,” and previously known as the Alberta Oil Sands Technology and Research Authority, established in 1974 “to promote the development and use of new technologies for oil sands and heavy crude oil production.”

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Common Dreams: With Review in Hand, Obama Must Now Reject Dirty Pipeline

Published on Friday, January 31, 2014 by Common Dreams

McKibben: “The State Department has given Obama all the room he needs to do what he promised in both campaigns: to take serious steps against global warming.”
– Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

Protestors demonstrated against the Keystone XL pipeline in San Francisco last year. (Photo: Getty Images)The State Department released its Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) of the Keystone XL pipeline on Friday. Environmental groups and climate activists are saying that given Obama’s promise to judge the project on its climate impacts there is no way—given the review’s contents—he can possibly approve it now.

In a press call following the release of the review, co-founder Bill McKibben said that a close reading of the report shows that the climate impacts it recognizes are undeniable.

“The report concluded that in a scenario where we take climate change seriously and regulate climate pollution, this pipeline will indeed have a ‘significant impact’ on climate change,” said McKibben. “So now we’ll find out if that’s the world Barack Obama and John Kerry want. This report gives President Obama everything he needs in order to block this project. This is the first environmental issue in years to bring Americans into the streets in big numbers, and now they’ll be there in ever greater numbers to make sure the President makes the right call.”

“President Obama now has all the information he needs to reject the pipeline. Piping the dirtiest oil on the planet through the heart of America would endanger our farms, our communities, our fresh water and our climate. That is absolutely not in our national interest. Keystone XL should be rejected.” —Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, NRDC

Following reports in the corporate media indicating that the final environmental review gives the go-ahead for the Obama administration to approve the controversial pipeline, environmental groups are calling this wishful thinking that accepts the spin of the fossil fuel industry. According to climate experts, the report actually corresponds to what the scientific evidence has shown all along—that the Keystone XL pipeline is dangerous, carbon intensive, hard to clean up, and the dirtiest fuel on the planet.

“The new review represents an important shift from prior analyses because it no longer tries to claim that Keystone’s impacts will be negligible,” said Bill Snape, senior counsel with the Center for Biological Diversity. “But even so, the environmental consequences are clear as day: oil spills, polluted rivers, and wildlife directly in harm’s way.”

According to the Sierra Club:

“Even though the State Department continues to downplay clear evidence that the Keystone XL pipeline would lead to tar sands expansion and significantly worsen carbon pollution, it has, for the first time, acknowledged that the proposed project could accelerate climate change,” said Susan Casey-Lefkowitz of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “President Obama now has all the information he needs to reject the pipeline. Piping the dirtiest oil on the planet through the heart of America would endanger our farms, our communities, our fresh water and our climate. That is absolutely not in our national interest. Keystone XL should be rejected.”

“Keystone XL will transport nearly a million barrels of highly toxic tar sands oil through America’s heartland each and every day for 50 years or more — only to have much of it refined and exported,” said Snape. “Along the way it will crush some of the last habitat for endangered species like the swift fox and whooping crane. It’ll pollute water used by millions of people and emit as many greenhouse gases as 51 coal-fired power plants.”

“The State Department acknowledges there is risk to our water and Keystone XL will increase tarsands production,” said Jane Kleeb, Bold Nebraska executive director. “TransCanada is fighting for their bottom line, while farmers and ranchers are fighting for their livelihoods and the Ogallala Aquifer which at one point our Governor stood with us to protect. We are in this fight to win and are confident Pres. Obama will make the right decision and deny the permit.”

“The State Department has given Obama all the room he needs to do what he promised in both campaigns: to take serious steps against global warming,” said McKibben earlier on Friday. “He’s about the only person who hasn’t weighed in on Keystone XL; now we’ll see if he’s good for his word.”

As said in a press statement: “Don’t let the convoluted process fool you. This is President Obama’s decision and his alone–and he has all the information he needs to reject the Keystone XL pipeline. The President has already laid out a climate test for Keystone XL, that it can’t significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions. It’s clear that Keystone XL fails that test.”

No final decision from the Obama administration has yet been made. The process now opens up to a 30-day public comment period.

And as the Associated Press reports: “The Environmental Protection Agency and other departments will have 90 days to comment before State makes a recommendation to Obama on whether the project is in the national interest. A final decision by the government is not expected before summer.”

On Twitter, key members of the climate movement were pointing out the fallacies and corporate spin they saw in early reporting on the FEIS by some:

Michael Brune @bruneski

Don’t believe the oil industry’s hype. State Dpt analysis shows tar sands oil is more toxic, more corrosive, & more carbon-intensive. #nokxl
3:22 PM – 31 Jan 2014

Common Dreams: The Guardian Approving Keystone XL Could Be the Biggest Mistake of Obama’s Presidency by Michael Mann
Published on Friday, January 31, 2014 by The Guardian

A State Department report fails to take into account the full climate impacts of Keystone XL. Who is Obama protecting?
by Michael Mann


I have made my position on the Keystone XL pipeline quite clear. Approving this hotly debated pipeline would send America down the wrong path. The science tells us now is the time that we should be throwing everything we have into creating a clean 21st century energy economy, not doubling down on the dirty energy that is imperiling our planet.

Now that the State Department has just released a final environmental impact report on Keystone XL, which appears to downplay the threat, and greatly increases the odds that the Obama administration will approve the project, I feel I must weigh in once again.

The simple fact is this: if Keystone XL is built, it will be easier to exploit fossil fuel reserves large enough to drastically destabilize the climate. A direct pipeline to refineries and global markets makes the business of polluting the atmosphere that much cheaper and easier.

The only truly accurate examination of the pipeline would include a full cost accounting its environmental footprint. It needs to take into account how much energy is consumed in refining and transporting the crude from oil sands. It must acknowledge that the pipeline would lower the cost and raise the convenience of extracting and exporting the incredibly carbon-intensive deposits of gas.

There are two main issues at stake in the Keystone XL decision: path dependency and US leadership. Path dependency is the term use to describe the fact that once a policy is put into place, it then constrains future options to those within that policy framework. More simply, the choices we make now determine what choices we get to make in the future.

A classic example is the “qwerty” keyboard layout. Even though this layout may not be the most efficient, it was the first one, and so it became the standard. New keyboard layouts would have to compete with an established format, meaning consumers would have to adapt to a new system they had no experience with. On the basis solely of legacy, inferior standards or policies remain in place, more or less out of inertia.

So, looking through the lens of path dependency, what does the Keystone XL project look like?

It looks like decades of extracting high-CO2 fuel at a time when we should be winding down such carbon intensive resource exploitation. It looks like decades of oil spills across America’s heartland written off as an acceptable side effect of making money. It looks like decades of continued political lobbying against any CO2-limiting regulations.

If approved and built, it looks like the United State is failing to take climate change seriously by virtually guaranteeing the massive Canadian oil sands reserved are exploited. That, I’m afraid, is the real threat of Keystone XL – the loss of US status as a global leader.

As the world looks to 2015 for the establishment of legally binding emissions targets, it is looking to the US for inspiration and leadership. While opponents of carbon regulations routinely point to China and India as an excuse for further inaction, the US is still the dominant force in world politics. If Obama puts his foot down and tells us the pipeline will not be built, he will be telling the world that the United States is committed to a future powered by clean renewable energy. For better or for worse, as the US goes so goes the planet.

If the United States takes the climatologically necessary step of preventing the Keystone pipeline, it sends a message more powerful than any protest, watered down regulation or rosy proclamation. It says that business as usual is no longer an option. It says carbon pollution is a serious problem. It says that we will no longer be held hostage by ideologues demanding, “More fossil fuels, or the economy gets it!”

Protecting our planet from Keystone XL would protect US standing on the global stage, and by reassuring all nations that the United States takes climate change seriously, it would protect international negotiations from devolving into a finger pointing, blame shifting debacle. Protecting us from Keystone XL would protect us from decades of continued foreign influence on US energy policy. Protecting us from Keystone XL would protect US land from oil spills and leaks.

Most importantly, protecting us from Keystone XL would protect our atmosphere from one of the most carbon-intensive fuels ever discovered.

If the president won’t protect us, who is he protecting?
© 2014 Guardian News and Media
Michael Mann

Michael Mann is Distinguished Professor of Meteorology at Penn State University. He was recognised with other Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change authors for their contribution to the IPCC’s 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. Follow him @MichaelEMann

Common Dreams & Center for Biologic Diversity: Obama Administration Pushes Disastrous Keystone XL Closer to Approval

January 31, 2014
5:21 PM

CONTACT: Bill Snape, (202) 536-9351

In a Shift, New State Department Review No Longer Attempts to Say Keystone Impacts Would be ‘Negligible’

WASHINGTON – January 31 – The controversial Keystone XL pipeline — a project that will worsen the climate crisis and threaten wildlife and waterways along its route — moved a step closer to approval today with the State Department’s release of a final environmental review.

“Keystone XL is a turning point for President Obama in deciding whether he’s embracing the climate-killing fossil fuels of the past or sane energy sources for the future,” said Bill Snape, senior counsel with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Oil companies may love this pipeline, but it’s a disaster in the making for our climate and for the wildlife in its path.”

Unlike prior reviews of the pipeline, the new State Department review does not attempt to claim that the environmental impacts would be minimal.

“The new review represents an important shift from prior analyses because it no longer tries to claim that Keystone’s impacts will be negligible,” Snape said. “But even so, the environmental consequences are clear as day: oil spills, polluted rivers, and wildlife directly in harm’s way.”

Last June President Obama warned of the dangers of climate change and said Keystone would only be in the national interest if it “does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.” The State Department and independent experts have already determined that Keystone XL will vastly increase tar sands development in Alberta, Canada. Acclaimed climate scientist Dr. James Hansen has said Keystone would be “game over” for avoiding catastrophic climate change.

“Keystone XL will transport nearly a million barrels of highly toxic tar sands oil through America’s heartland each and every day for 50 years or more — only to have much of it refined and exported,” said Snape. “Along the way it will crush some of the last habitat for endangered species like the swift fox and whooping crane. It’ll pollute water used by millions of people and emit as many greenhouse gases as 51 coal-fired power plants.”

Last year the Center released a report on the risks posed to endangered species by Keystone XL. The Center also released a video highlighting the dangers of oil pipelines — a key point given the State Department’s estimate that the 1,700 Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL pipeline will spill at least 100 times during its lifetime.
At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature – to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

Common Dreams: Pipeline Protesters Urge Obama: ‘Be A Climate Champion’ Ahead of the State of the Union, protesters call on President Obama to use address to “reject KXL”

Published on Tuesday, January 28, 2014
– Lauren McCauley, staff writer


Environmental groups paraded a giant inflatable pipeline around the Capitol building Tuesday ahead of the State of the Union address. (photo: @erichpica/ Twitter)Green groups are calling on President Obama to make a choice: ‘Be remembered as a climate champion or the pipeline president.’

Parading a 100-yard inflatable pipeline outside the U.S. Capitol Tuesday afternoon, demonstrators are hoping to grab the president’s attention ahead of the annual State of the Union address.

Organized by groups including and Friends of the Earth, the demonstration is calling on Obama to renew the pledge he made last year when he said he would not approve the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline if it is found to “significantly exacerbate” carbon pollution.

“President Obama needs to decide whether he wants to be remembered as a climate champion or the pipeline president. He can’t have it both ways,” said Jason Kowalski, Policy Director for

He has “all the information he needs to reject Keystone XL and he should do so in the State of the Union,” the groups added in a statement ahead of the action.

The demonstration comes within days of the anticipated release of the State Department’s Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) on the project, which Obama previously said he would look to for guidance on whether to permit the pipeline or not.

“Despite shoddy analysis by industry contractors working for the State Department, there is no doubt that approving Keystone XL would have a dramatic impact on the climate and should be rejected immediately by President Obama as not serving the national interest,” the groups continued, referencing a previously released draft of the SEIS which was condemned by both scientists and green groups as “deeply flawed.”

“The State of the Union would be an excellent time to reject the project and embrace a clean energy future,” they add.

Last week, the lesser known southern leg of the Keystone XL began operating, carrying tar sands from its northern terminal in Cushing, Oklahoma to refineries along the Gulf of Mexico.

Whether or not the Keystone XL is approved, the enormous upswell in opposition to the project has “changed American environmental politics,” according to a piece published Friday in the New York Times.

Times reporter Sarah Wheaton writes:

Although some critics say the environmental movement has made a strategic error by focusing so much energy on the pipeline, no one disputes that the issue has helped a new breed of environmental organizations build a mostly young army eager to donate money and time. The seven-year-old email list of, an organization that focuses on climate change, has more than doubled to 530,000 people since the group began fighting the pipeline in August 2011. In addition, about 76,000 people have signed a “pledge of resistance” sponsored by seven liberal advocacy groups in which they promise to risk arrest in civil disobedience if a State Department analysis, expected this year, points toward approval of the pipeline.

“I remember when I heard the call for civil disobedience, I thought, ‘Yeah, right, you’ll get like 40 people to show up,’ ” Ross Hammond, a senior campaigner with Friends of the Earth, told the Times. “‘And then, bam!’ Over a two-week period, about 1,200 people were arrested at the White House.”

During Tuesday’s demonstration, founder Bill McKibben reiterated the power of the KXL opposition:
✔ @billmckibben

Giant pipeline currently circling White House, a reminder before tonite’s SOTU of what’s brought environmentalists into the streets
12:14 PM – 28 Jan 2014

Common Dreams: Communities Resist as Tar Sands Flow Through KXL South

Published on Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Sacrificing the health of the people and planet, 590,000 additional barrels of oil will now flow to refineries on the Gulf
– Lauren McCauley, staff writer

Activists in Portland, Maine showing solidarity with communities along the pipeline by locking themselves to TD bank. (Photo: Meaghan LaSala)Tar sands oil began flowing through the the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline Wednesday as operations commenced delivering the “the dirtiest fuel on Earth” to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico.

The southern leg—the lesser known half of Transcanada’s pipeline—originates in Cushing, Oklahoma and passes through countless communities in Oklahoma and East Texas before arriving at refineries and shipping ports along the coast.

“We are the story that isn’t often told,” East Texas resident Maya Lemon said in a statement circulated by the group NacSTOP (Nacogdoches County Stop Tar Sands Oil Permanently), “the story where Obama’s decision to delay on KXL north was paired with an endorsement to fast track KXL south.”

While opposition to the project has lacked the national attention given to protests against the northern section, local activists and community members on the front lines of the pipeline have long-fought the project and the eminent domain laws that bullied it through.

“We are dissatisfied with the process that allows this pipeline to begin operation, we are frustrated that landowner rights and issues related to eminent domain have never been fully resolved, and we are concerned that our communiies are not prepared to respond safely from this pipeline,” NacSTOP writes in a letter calling for solidarity action nationwide.

Answering that call, two activists in Portland, Maine were arrested for protesting in solidarity with the communities along the pipeline route Wednesday by locking themselves to the front door of a TD Bank, one of the biggest investors in the pipeline.

The activists, both with the group Maine Trans and/or Women’s Action Team, braved 15 degree weather hoping to draw attention to the 590,000 additional barrels of oil that will now flow to refineries located in largely minority communities in Manchester, Texas.

“Climate change’s origin is deeply rooted in this practice of sacrificing of communities that are deemed dispensable,” Betsy Catlin, one of the protesters locked to TD Bank, told Common Dreams.

“It comes as no surprise that these are mostly low-income, communities of color: majority Latina/o on the East End of Houston and majroity African-American in Port Arthur,” said life-long Houston resident and community activist, María Jiménez, who added that these communities “are living examples of environmental racism.”

According to a recent comparitive health study, children raised amid refineries in Houston’s Manchester neighborhood are already 56% more likely to contract childhood leukemia, says Yudith Nieto, an organizer with Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (TEJAS).

“[R]efining tar sands will only increase that percentage while the refineries keep up their blatant disregard for the lives of those of us forced by circumstance to breathe their dangerous emissions on a daily basis,” she added.

Fully operational, the 486-mile southern pipeline will transport 830,000 barrels of crude per day between vast underground storage tanks in Cushing, Okla., and the Gulf Coast, the Dallas Morning News reports. Other pipelines and rail services feed into it from the north.

National environmental groups responded to the news with despair, both for the communities along the pipeline route as well as for what the moment spells for the priorities of American politicians and their approval of the northern half.

“Expediting KXL south was not the mark of a president who really ‘gets’ climate change,” said leading climate activist and founder of Bill McKibben, who later tweeted:

“Tar sands is more corrosive, more toxic, and more difficult to clean up than conventional crude. Coupled with lax oversight and TransCanada’s dismal safety record, this pipeline spells bad news for farmers and families whose land, health, and safety were forfeited so that oil companies can reach export markets with their deadly product,” said Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune in a statement.

“We hope from this point on that unity is the clarion call for the climate movement,” lamented Juan Parras, founder of TEJAS.

“Environmental Justice communities, private property owners, residents living in proximity to the pipeline, and all those up and downstream – we’re are all affected here in the same struggle: to permanently stop the most ecologically devastating mining operations in the world and address the ongoing injustices of petrochemical refining,” he added.

Speaking with residents along the pipeline route, Al Jazeera produced this report on the impact of the southern leg

E&E: KEYSTONE XL: Gulf Coast access for oil sands set for Jan. 22

Elana Schor, E&E reporter
Published: Tuesday, December 17, 2013

TransCanada Corp. will begin shipping heavy oil sands crude from Alberta to the Gulf Coast — the goal of its Keystone XL pipeline — on Jan. 22, when the controversial project’s President Obama-blessed southern leg begins operation, the company announced today.

Environmentalists rarely offer loud criticism of the Obama administration’s green light for the 485-mile pipeline that TransCanada last year renamed the Gulf Coast Project, locked as they are in a years-long campaign to secure a presidential veto of the 1,179-mile northern leg of KXL. But as the pipeline giant’s CEO affirmed in a Reuters interview today, higher prices for heavy oil along the Gulf Coast mean many shippers will seek to move Canadian crude from the 2010-launched Keystone 1 pipeline, which runs from Alberta to Cushing, Okla., onto KXL’s southern portion, which runs from Cushing to Port Arthur, Texas.

“This is another important milestone for TransCanada, our shippers and the refiners on the U.S. Gulf Coast who have been waiting for this product to arrive,” TransCanada spokesman Shawn Howard wrote to reporters.

The company had said last week that it would not disclose the in-service date for the Gulf Coast Project until crude shipments already had begun, citing the risk of financial market speculators aiming to profit off anticipated time frames for deliveries (Greenwire, Dec. 9).

Despite the practical blow that the southern leg’s opening represents, conservation and safety advocates remain as committed as ever to unraveling TransCanada’s border-crossing permit application for the northern section of KXL. The State Department remains at work on a final environmental review of the $5.4 billion project, widely expected to see release next year given an ongoing inspector general inquiry into conflict-of-interest allegations against the private contractor helming the process.

The Gulf Coast Project’s ultimate capacity is expected to reach 700,000 barrels per day, though initial flows are likely to fall below 600,000 bpd as TransCanada continues to seek shipper commitments to run heavy crude through the line.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Common Dreams: ‘Face of Resistance in Northwest’: Tar Sands ‘Megaload’ Blockaded
Published on Tuesday, December 17, 2013

‘They want to extract the dirtiest oil in the world and send it overseas at the expense of communities and the climate’
– Andrea Germanos, staff writer

Activists engaging in a blockade of a tar sands “megaload” in Oregon earlier this month. (Photo: Portland Rising Tide) “The face of tar sands resistance in the Northwest” appeared again on Monday when 16 people were arrested in Oregon after blockading a “megaload” of equipment on its way to the Athabasca oil fields in Alberta, Canada.

Organizers with the climate activism group Portland Rising Tide say protesters set up two blockade sites along Highway 26 near the town of John Day, locking themselves to disabled vehicles in front of the 376-foot long, 901,000-lb load carrying a heat exchanger to be used in tar sands extraction.

While the activists succeeded in at least temporarily halting the transport of equipment, Portland Rising Tide says police used “pain compliance to extract” the four protesters who had locked themselves to the two vehicles, and aggressively arrested others “who were actively trying not to obstruct the load or police activity.”

Among the arrested were the group’s photographers and videographers.

“Transporting loads of such sizes presents a huge threat to rural Oregon’s roads, and rivers,” said Nicole Brown, who grew up in Eastern Oregon and was present at the actions last night. “Law enforcement should focus on protecting Oregon’s roads and rivers and people, rather than multinational fossil fuel interests.”

Portland Rising Tide says that a similar megaload toppled last week in Gladstone, Ore., blocking part of I-205 for hours.

“Are they creating jobs in our communities? No, they want to extract the dirtiest oil in the world and send it overseas at the expense of communities and the climate,” Brown stated.

Weather, mountain roads and protests have already slowed down the megaload’s travel. It now heads east into Idaho and then into Montana before reaching the Alberta tar sands.

It is the first of three megaloads scheduled to pass through Oregon.

Monday’s blockade follows a similar action earlier in the month, when Rising Tide activists and Umatilla tribal members blockaded a megaload of tar sands equipment near the Port of Umatilla in Oregon. In August members of the Nez Perce tribe and others halted a similar megaload of equipment making its way along Idaho’s Highway 12 to the Alberta tar sands fields.

Within the last two weeks, Portland Rising Tide has also occupied offices of megaload shipper Omega Morgan as well as the office of a General Electric subsidiary that makes equipment for what the group has called “the most destructive and outmoded, fossil fuel extraction undertaking on Earth: Alberta tar sands mining.”


Rolling Stone Magazine: Obama and Climate Change: The Real Story by Bill McKibben

The president has said the right things about climate change – and has taken some positive steps. But we’re drilling for more oil and digging up more carbon than ever

Illustration by Victor Juhasz
By Bill McKibben
December 17, 2013 9:00 AM ET

Two years ago, on a gorgeous November day, 12,000 activists surrounded the White House to protest the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Signs we carried featured quotes from Barack Obama in 2008: “Time to end the tyranny of oil”; “In my administration, the rise of the oceans will begin to slow.”

Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math

Our hope was that we could inspire him to keep those promises. Even then, there were plenty of cynics who said Obama and his insiders were too closely tied to the fossil-fuel industry to take climate change seriously. But in the two years since, it’s looked more and more like they were right – that in our hope for action we were willing ourselves to overlook the black-and-white proof of how he really feels.

If you want to understand how people will remember the Obama climate legacy, a few facts tell the tale: By the time Obama leaves office, the U.S. will pass Saudi Arabia as the planet’s biggest oil producer and Russia as the world’s biggest producer of oil and gas combined. In the same years, even as we’ve begun to burn less coal at home, our coal exports have climbed to record highs. We are, despite slight declines in our domestic emissions, a global-warming machine: At the moment when physics tell us we should be jamming on the carbon brakes, America is revving the engine.

Greenland Melting: Climate Change’s Disasterous Effects

You could argue that private industry, not the White House, has driven that boom, and in part you’d be right. But that’s not what Obama himself would say. Here’s Obama speaking in Cushing, Oklahoma, last year, in a speech that historians will quote many generations hence. It is to energy what Mitt Romney’s secretly taped talk about the 47 percent was to inequality. Except that Obama was out in public, boasting for all the world to hear:

“Over the last three years, I’ve directed my administration to open up millions of acres for gas and oil exploration across 23 different states. We’re opening up more than 75 percent of our potential oil resources offshore. We’ve quad­rupled the number of operating rigs to a record high. We’ve added enough new oil and gas pipeline to encircle the Earth, and then some. . . . In fact, the problem . . . is that we’re actually producing so much oil and gas . . . that we don’t have enough pipeline capacity to transport all of it where it needs to go.”

Actually, of course, “the problem” is that climate change is spiraling out of control. Under Obama we’ve had the warmest year in American history – 2012 – featuring a summer so hot that corn couldn’t grow across much of the richest farmland on the planet. We’ve seen the lowest barometric pressure ever recorded north of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, and the largest wind field ever measured, both from Hurricane Sandy. We’ve watched the Arctic melt, losing three quarters of its summer sea ice. We’ve seen some of the largest fires ever recorded in the mountains of California, Colorado and New Mexico. And not just here, of course – his term has seen unprecedented drought and flood around the world. The typhoon that just hit the Philippines, according to some meteorologists, had higher wind speeds at landfall than any we’ve ever seen. When the world looks back at the Obama years half a century from now, one doubts they’ll remember the health care website; one imagines they’ll study how the most powerful government on Earth reacted to the sudden, clear onset of climate change.

The Fossil Fuel Resistance

And what they’ll see is a president who got some stuff done, emphasis on “some.” In his first term, Obama used the stimulus money to promote green technology, and he won agreement from Detroit for higher automobile mileage standards; in his second term, he’s fighting for EPA regulations on new coal-fired power plants. These steps are important – and they also illustrate the kind of fights the Obama administration has been willing to take on: ones where the other side is weak. The increased mileage standards came at a moment when D.C. owned Detroit – they were essentially a condition of the auto bailouts. And the battle against new coal-fired power plants was really fought and won by environmentalists. Over the past few years, the Sierra Club and a passel of local groups managed to beat back plans for more than 100 new power plants. The new EPA rules – an architecture designed in part by the Natural Resources Defense Council – will ratify the rout and drive a stake through the heart of new coal. But it’s also a mopping-up action.

Obama loyalists argue that these are as much as you could expect from a president saddled with the worst Congress in living memory. But that didn’t mean that the president had to make the problem worse, which he’s done with stunning regularity. Consider:

• Just days before the BP explosion, the White House opened much of the offshore U.S. to new oil drilling. (“Oil rigs today generally don’t cause spills,” he said by way of explanation. “They are technologically very advanced.”)

• In 2012, with the greatest Arctic melt on record under way, his administration gave Shell Oil the green light to drill in Alaska’s Beaufort Sea. (“Our pioneering spirit is naturally drawn to this region, for the economic opportunities it presents,” the president said.)

• This past August, as the largest forest fire in the history of the Sierra Nevadas was burning in Yosemite National Park, where John Muir invented modern environmentalism, the Bureau of Land Management decided to auction 316 million tons of taxpayer-owned coal in Wyoming’s Powder River basin. According to the Center for American Progress, the emissions from that sale will equal the carbon produced from 109 million cars.

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Even on questions you’d think would be open-and-shut, the administration has waffled. In November, for instance, the EPA allowed Kentucky to weaken a crucial regulation, making it easier for mountaintop-removal coal mining to continue. As the Sierra Club’s Bruce Nilles said, “It’s dismaying that the Obama administration approved something even worse than what the Bush administration proposed.”

All these steps are particularly toxic because we’ve learned something else about global warming during the Obama years: Most of the coal and gas and oil that’s underground has to stay there if we’re going to slow climate change.

Though the Copenhagen climate conference in 2009 was unquestionably the great foreign-policy failure of Obama’s first term, producing no targets or timetables or deals, the world’s leaders all signed a letter pledging that they would keep the earth’s temperature from rising more than two degrees Celsius. This is not an ambitious goal (the one degree we’ve raised the temperature already has melted the Arctic, so we’re fools to find out what two will do), but at least it is something solid to which Obama and others are committed. To reach that two-degree goal, say organizations such as the Carbon Tracker Initiative, the World Bank, the International Energy Agency, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, HSBC and just about everyone else who’s looked at the question, we’d need to leave undisturbed between two-thirds and four-fifths of the planet’s reserves of coal, gas and oil.

The Powder River Basin would have been a great place to start, especially since activists, long before the administration did anything, have driven down domestic demand for coal by preventing new power plants. But as the “Truth Team” on barack puts it, “building a clean future for coal is an integral part of President Obama’s plan to develop every available source of American energy.”

And where will the coal we don’t need ourselves end up? Overseas, at record levels: the Netherlands, the U.K., China, South Korea. And when it gets there, it slows the move to cleaner forms of energy. All told, in 2012, U.S. coal exports were the equivalent of putting 55 million new cars on the road. If we don’t burn our coal and instead sell it to someone else, the planet doesn’t care; the atmosphere has no borders.

As the administration’s backers consistently point out, America has cut its own carbon emissions by 12 percent in the past five years, and we may meet our announced national goal of a 17 percent reduction by decade’s end. We’ve built lots of new solar panels and wind towers in the past five years (though way below the pace set by nations like Germany). In any event, building more renewable energy is not a useful task if you’re also digging more carbon energy – it’s like eating a pan of Weight Watchers brownies after you’ve already gobbled a quart of Ben and Jerry’s.

Let’s lay aside the fact that climate scientists have long since decided these targets are too timid and that we’d have to cut much more deeply to get ahead of global warming. All this new carbon drilling, digging and burning the White House has approved will add up to enough to negate the administration’s actual achievements: The coal from the Powder River Basin alone, as the commentator Dave Roberts pointed out in Grist, would “undo all of Obama’s other climate work.”

The perfect example of this folly is the Keystone XL pipeline stretching south from the tar sands of Canada – the one we were protesting that November day. The tar sands are absurdly dirty: To even get oil to flow out of the muck you need to heat it up with huge quantities of natural gas, making it a double-dip climate dis­aster. More important, these millions of untouched acres just beneath the Arctic Circle make up one of the biggest pools of carbon on Earth. If those fields get fully developed, as NASA’s recently retired senior climate scientist James Hansen pointed out, it will be “game over” for the climate.

Obama has all the authority he needs to block any pipelines that cross the border to the U.S. And were he to shut down Keystone XL, say analysts, it would dramatically slow tar-sands expansion plans in the region. But soon after taking office, he approved the first, small Keystone pipeline, apparently without any qualms. And no one doubts that if a major campaign hadn’t appeared, he would have approved the much larger Keystone XL without a peep – even though the oil that will flow through that one pipe will produce almost as much carbon as he was theoretically saving with his new auto-mileage law.

But the fight to shut down the pipeline sparked a grassroots movement that has changed the culture of environmentalism – but not, so far, the culture of the White House. For me, the most telling moment came a month or two ago when it emerged that the president’s former communications director, Anita Dunn, had taken a contract to flack for the pipeline.

The reason for fighting Keystone all along was not just to block further expansion of the tar sands – though that’s required, given the amount of carbon contained in that expanse of Alberta. We also hoped that doing the right thing would jump-start Washington in the direction of real climate action. Instead, the effort necessary to hold off this one pipeline has kept environmentalists distracted as Obama has opened the Arctic and sold off the Powder River Basin, as he’s fracked and drilled. It kept us quiet as both he and Mitt Romney spent the whole 2012 campaign studiously ignoring climate change.

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We’re supposed to be thrilled when Obama says something, anything, about global warming – he gave a fine speech this past June. “The question,” he told a Georgetown University audience, is “whether we will have the courage to act before it’s too late. And how we answer will have a profound impact on the world that we leave behind not just to you, but to your children and to your grandchildren. As a president, as a father and as an American, I’m here to say we need to act.” Inspiring stuff, but then in October, when activists pressed him about Keystone at a Boston gathering, he said, “We had the climate-change rally back in the summer.” Oh.

In fact, that unwillingness to talk regularly about climate change may be the greatest mistake the president has made. An account in Politico last month described his chief of staff dressing down Nobel laureate and then-Energy Secretary Steven Chu in 2009 for daring to tell an audience in Trinidad that island nations were in severe danger from rising seas. Rahm Emanuel called his deputy Jim Messina to say, “If you don’t kill Chu, I’m going to.” On the plane home, Messina told Chu, “How, exactly, was this fucking on message?” It’s rarely been on message for Obama, despite the rising damage. His government spent about as much last year responding to Sandy and to the Midwest drought as it did on education, but you wouldn’t know it from his actions.

Which doesn’t mean anyone’s given up – the president’s inaction has actually helped to spur a real movement. Some of it is aimed at Washington, and involves backing the few good things the administration has done. At the moment, for instance, most green groups are rallying support for the new EPA coal regulations.

Mostly, though, people are working around the administration, and with increasing success. Obama’s plan to auction Powder River Basin coal has so far failed – there aren’t any bidders, in large part because citizens in Washington state and Oregon have fought the proposed ports that would make it cheap to ship all that coal to Asia. Obama has backed fracking to the hilt – but in state after state, voters have begun to limit and restrict the technology. Environmentalists are also taking the fight directly to Big Oil: In October, an Oxford University study said that the year-old fight for divestment from stock in fos­sil-fuel companies is the fastest-growing corporate campaign in history.

None of that cures the sting of Obama’s policies nor takes away the need to push him hard. Should he do the right thing on Keystone XL, a decision expected sometime in the next six months, he’ll at least be able to tell other world leaders, “See, I’ve stopped a big project on climate grounds.” That could, if he used real diplomatic pressure, help restart the international talks he has let lapse. He’s got a few chances left to show some leadership.

But even on this one highly contested pipeline, he’s already given the oil industry half of what it wanted. That day in Oklahoma when he boasted about encircling the Earth with pipelines, he also announced his support for the southern leg of Keystone, from Oklahoma to the Gulf. Not just his support: He was directing his administration to “cut through the red tape, break through the bureaucratic hurdles and make this project a priority, to go ahead and get it done.”

It has: Despite brave opposition from groups like Tar Sands Blockade, Keystone South is now 95 percent complete, and the administration is in court seeking to beat back the last challenges from landowners along the way. The president went ahead and got it done. If only he’d apply that kind of muscle to stopping climate change.

This story is from the December 19th, 2013 – January 2nd, 2014 issue of Rolling Stone.

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Common Dreams: Neil Young: Tar Sands Fields ‘Look Like Hiroshima’

Published on Tuesday, September 10, 2013 by Common Dreams

neil young
Singer says tar sands development left Fort McMurray a ‘wasteland’ that is ‘truly a disaster’
– Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

Flickr / Creative Commons License / NRK P3Fresh off a trip to Canada’s tar sands oil fields in Alberta, famed singer Neil Young spoke out at a conference in Washington, DC on Monday against the controversial oil extraction and its export through the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, calling Fort McMurray, the town nearest Alberta’s vast tar sands, a “wasteland.”

“This is truly a disaster,” said Young, painting a dire picture in which the people, land and animals of the region are greatly suffering.

“The fuel’s all over – the fumes everywhere – you can smell it when you get to town,” Young recalled. “The closest place to Fort McMurray that is doing the tar sands work is 25 or 30 miles out of town and you can taste it when you get to Fort McMurray. People are sick. People are dying of cancer because of this. All the First Nations people up there are threatened by this.”

“Yeah it’s going to put a lot of people to work,” Young said of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which is slated to transport the excavated tar sands to export terminals in Texas and Louisiana. “I’ve heard that, and I’ve seen a lot of people that would dig a hole that’s so deep that they couldn’t get out of it, and that’s a job too, and I think that’s the jobs that we are talking about there with the Keystone pipeline,” he said.

“The fact is, Fort McMurray looks like Hiroshima,” said Young. “Fort McMurray is a wasteland. … All of the First Nations people up there are threatened by this. Their food supply is wasted. Their treaties are no good. They have a right to live on the land that they always did but there’s no land left that they can live on. All the animals are dying. This is truly a disaster.”

“Neil Young is speaking for all of us fighting to stop the Keystone XL,” Jane Kleeb, Executive Director of Bold Nebraska, a coalition of landowners and others opposed to the $5.3-billion Keystone XL pipeline, told the Globe and Mail. “When you see the pollution already caused by the reckless expansion of tar sands, you only have one choice and that is to act.”

_______________________ The Flip Side Of Obama’s Keystone XL Delay: Even as President Obama cast a veneer of caution over the Keystone pipeline’s northern half, he quietly expedited dozens of similar projects.

By Steve Horn | September 7, 2013

The Republican-controlled House is voting today on a measure that would strip the president’s authority on Keystone XL pipeline approval, allowing Congress to push the project through before completion of the environmental impact study. (Photo/Matt Wansley via Flickr)

While President Obama made a big deal out of delaying the northern half of the Keystone pipeline’s construction, he compensated by signing an executive order to expedite similar infrastructure projects everywhere else. (Photo/Matt Wansley via Flickr)

Large segments of the environmental movement declared a win on Jan. 18, 2012, the dawn of an election year in which partisan fervor reigned supreme.

On that day President Barack Obama kicked the can down the road for permitting TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline’s northern half until after the then-forthcoming November 2012 presidential election.

“Northern half” is the key caveat: just two months later, on March 22, 2012 – even deeper into the weeds of an election year – President Obama issued Executive Order 13604. Among other key things, the order has an accompanying memorandum calling for an expedited review of the southern half of Keystone XL stretching from Cushing, Okla. to Port Arthur, Texas.

The day before, March 21, Obama flew on Air Force One to a pipe yard in Cushing – the “pipeline crossroads of the world” – for a special stump speech and photo-op announcing the executive order and memorandum.

Dubbed the Gulf Coast Pipeline Project by TransCanada – 95 percent complete and “open for business” in the first quarter of 2014 – the 485-mile tube will ship 700,000 barrels of tar sands crude per day from Cushing to Port Arthur, where it will then reach Gulf Coast refineries and be exported to the global market. It will eventually have the capacity to ship 830,000 barrels per day.

The subject of a large amount of grassroots resistance from groups such as Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance and the Tar Sands Blockade, the Gulf Coast Pipeline Project – when push comes to shove – is only the tip of the iceberg.

That’s because Obama’s order also called for expedited permitting and review of all domestic infrastructure projects – including but not limited to pipelines – as a reaction to the Keystone XL resistance.

A months-long Mint Press News investigation reveals the executive order wasn’t merely a symbolic gesture.

Rather, many key pipeline and oil and gas industry marketing projects are currently up for expedited review, making up for — and by far eclipsing — the capacity of Keystone XL’s northern half. The original TransCanada Keystone pipeline – as is – already directly connects to Cushing from Alberta, making XL (short for “extension line”) essentially obsolete.

Keystone XL’s northern half proposal is key for marketing oil obtained from the controversial hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) process in North Dakota’s Bakken Shale basin.

Dubbed the Bakken Marketlink Pipeline, the segment has lost its importance with the explosive freight rail boom for moving Bakken fracked oil to market and other pipeline proposals. One of those pipelines, in fact, has received fast-track approval under the March 2012 Obama Executive Order.

Feeling the pressure from protest against the Keystone XL from groups such as the Tar Sands Action, Indigenous Environmental Network and others, Obama pulled a fast one: “wait and see” for XL’s northern half – which many claimed as a victory – and expedited approval of everything else via executive order.

Breaking down the Keystone XL executive order

Obama’s Keystone XL southern half March 2012 memo reads like Big Oil talking points.

“[W]e need an energy infrastructure system that can keep pace with advances in production,” Obama states in the Memo. “To promote American energy sources, we must not only extract oil — we must also be able to transport it to our world-class refineries, and ultimately to consumers.”

A metaphorical slap in the face to environmentalists who spent months working on opposing Keystone XL, Obama argued a more efficient, less bureaucratic means of approval was compulsory.

“[A]s part of my Administration’s broader efforts to improve the performance of Federal permitting and review processes, we must make pipeline infrastructure a priority … supporting projects that can contribute to economic growth and a secure energy future,” the memo reads.

Though the order issued an expedited permitting process for Keystone XL’s southern half, it also foreshadowed that expedited permitting would become the “new normal” going forward for all domestic oil and gas pipeline projects.

“To address the existing bottleneck in Cushing, as well as other current or anticipated bottlenecks, agencies shall … coordinate and expedite their reviews … as necessary to expedite decisions related to domestic pipeline infrastructure projects that would contribute to a more efficient domestic pipeline system for the transportation of crude oil,” the memo states in closing.

The memo also notes all projects placed in the expedited permitting pile can have their statuses tracked on the online Federal Infrastructure Projects Dashboard, with 48 projects currently listed.

Little time was wasted building the XL’s southern half after Obama issued the Order and within a slim two years, TransCanada will have its first direct line from Alberta to Gulf Coast refineries in southern Texas.

Muted opposition: “eco-terrorists,” SLAPP lawsuit threats

It’s not as if the Keystone XL southern half expedited permit has gone unopposed. It’s just that activists who have chosen to resist the pipeline have paid a heavy price for doing so.

A case in point: opposition to Keystone XL’s southern half has earned many activists the label – on multiple occasions – as potential “eco-terrorists,” named as such by TransCanada, the U.S. FBI and Department of Homeland Security’s Nebraska-based “fusion center” and local undercover police.

Other activists were threatened by TransCanada with a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP), all of whom made an out of court settlement in January 2013.

Activists agreed to “no longer trespass or cause damage to Keystone XL property including the easements within private property boundaries,” explained FireDogLake’s Kevin Gosztola in a January 2013 article.

The agreement was a quintessential “lesser of two evils” choice, given activists could have found themselves bogged down in legal fees from TransCanada and may have eventually owed the corporation big bucks.

“The activists had a choice: either settle or face a lawsuit in court where TransCanada would seek $5 million for alleged financial damages … that could have much worse consequences,” Gosztola further explained.

Beyond SLAPP threats, key lawsuits aiming to fend off TransCanada have also failed.

Texas lawsuit highlights expedited permitting corruption

One of those lawsuits in particular – filed on April 25, 2013 by a Douglass, Texas-based citizen named Michael Bishop representing himself in court – paints a picture of what President Obama meant when he said he would fast-track permitting for infrastructure projects going forward.

Before filing the lawsuit, Bishop penned a four-part series for EcoWatch in February and March of 2013 on his experiences as a landowner living a mere 120-feet from pipeline construction and dealing with TransCanada in Texas.

“I am amazed by the lack of understanding about this project by the general public and even more amazed that people in other parts of the country are so focused on the ‘northern segment’ while the pipeline is actually being laid right here in Texas and will begin transporting diluted bitumen, tar sands crude oil, to Gulf Coast refineries by the end of the year,” Bishop wrote in Part III. “So many seem oblivious to this fact.”

Bishop alleges in his Complaint for Declaratory Relief and Petition for Writ of Mandamus that on-the-books bread-and-butter environmental laws were broken when fast-tracked permitting for Keystone XL’s southern half unfolded.

The permitting mechanism utilized by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – following Obama’s March 2012 executive order and memorandum – was a Nationwide Permit 12.

Nationwide Permit 12 has also been chosen for fast-tracked permitting of Enbridge’s Flanagan South Pipeline. That pipeline is set to fill the gap – and then some – for Keystone XL’s northern half, bringing tar sands crude along the 600-mile long, 600,000 barrels per day pipeline from Pontiac, Ill. to Cushing, Okla.

A 2012 document produced by the Army Corps of Engineers explains Nationwide Permit 12 is meant for permitting of utility lines, access roads; foundations for overhead utility line towers, poles, and anchors: pipelines carrying corrosive tar sands crude go unmentioned.

The Corps’ document also explains Nationwide Permit 12 exists to “authorize certain activities that have minimal individual and cumulative adverse effects on the aquatic environment,” further explaining, “Activities that result in more than minimal individual and cumulative adverse effects on the aquatic environment cannot be authorized.”

Bishop cited the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), arguing Nationwide Permit 12 as applied to Keystone XL’s southern half violated the spirit of that law because no environmental assessment was conducted and no public hearings were held.

“Given the fact that the Corps was involved in the preparation of the TransCanada Keystone Pipeline XL for the State Department … knowledgeable of the toxic nature of the material to be transported and massive public opposition to the project, public hearings should have been held in accordance with the law,” wrote Bishop.

Further, the pipeline crosses “nearly 1,000 crossings of bodies of water in Texas alone,” according to Bishop’s complaint.

In following the dictates of the March 2012 executive order and memorandum, Bishop argues the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers acted in total disregard for long-established environmental law.

“The use of Nation Wide Permit-12 is not a substitute for following NEPA and the Corps, while having some degree of latitude, failed in its ministerial duty,” Bishop wrote. “There was a blatant disregard for established environmental law…which not only included public input, but also directed the agency to consider human health and safety.”

To date, the lawsuit has not been heard in court.

Hastening Bakken shale development

While the environmental community hones in on Keystone XL’s northern half, the business community has focused on expediting permits in the Bakken Shale and filling in the gap left behind by the lack of a TransCanada “Bakken Marketlink.”

Big Business has done so – in the main – by using pipelines to ship Bakken crude to key rail hubs.

One of the pipelines listed in the Federal Infrastructure Projects Dashboard is the Bakkenlink pipeline – not to be confused with the “Bakken Marketlink” – a 144-mile-long tube set to carry fracked oil from the Bakken to rail facilities that would then carry the product to strategic markets.

“Currently, crude oil from this region of the Bakken field is transported to rail facilities via truck,” explains the Dashboard. “The proposed BakkenLink pipeline provides an opportunity to eliminate a vast amount of overland truck traffic.”

Petroleum News Bakken, an industry news publication, explains Bakkenlink was proposed when the northern half of Keystone XL was put on hold by the Obama Administration.

“Originally the BakkenLink was intended to run all the way to Baker, Mont., where it was to connect to the Keystone XL pipeline, but when the Keystone XL project was put on hold in 2011, BakkenLink LLC modified its plan and opted to terminate the pipeline at the Fryburg rail facility,” Petroleum News Bakken explained.

The Bismarck Tribune explained Great Northern Midstream LLC – which wholly owns BakkenLink LLC as a subsidiary – has built capacity to load fracked Bakken oil onto 110-car unit trains via the Fryburg rail facility.

For sake of comparison, TransCanada’s Bakken Marketlink Pipeline – aka Keystone XL – was slated to bring 100,000 barrels per day of crude to market.

The freight trains scheduled to carry this oil are owned by Burlington Northern Sante Fe (BNSF). BNSF itself is owned by Warren Buffett, the fourth richest man on the planet and major campaign contributor to President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.

With plans to “spend $4.1 billion on capital improvements in 2013, a single-year record for an American railroad…BNSF says it is transporting more than half of the oil produced in the North Dakota and Montana regions of the Bakken,” according to a June 2013 Dallas Morning News article. “The boom would not be as big, nor would it have happened as fast, without BNSF.”

Recent investigative pieces on Buffett’s ties to the tar sands also shows he owns over $2.7 billion worth of stock in tar sands producers such as ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, General Electric and Suncor as of September 7, 2013.

Another key data point: a 70-unit train carrying 51,428 barrels of fracked Bakken Oil to a Canadian east coast export terminal owned by Irving Oil derailed and exploded in a fireball on July 2013, killing 47 people in Lac-Mégantic, located in Québec province.

Coming full circle, Irving Oil and TransCanada announced a joint venture to develop and construct an export facility in St. John, Canada on August 1, less than a month after the lethal Lac-Mégantic derailment. That facility would take tar sands crude shipped from the 1.1 million barrels per day proposed TransCanada Energy East pipeline and export it to the global market.

Bakken Federal Executives Group

Bakkenlink isn’t the only game in town for the March 2012 executive order’s impact on expedited permitting in the Bakken Shale.

Enter the Bakken Federal Executives Group – helped along by Obama’s Assistant for Energy and Climate Change Heather Zichal – the Obama White House’s industry-friendly liaison to Big Oil.

“Among Zichal’s tasks is wooing Jack Gerard,” explained a May 2012 article in Bloomberg. Gerard was thought to be one of the candidates for Chief-of-Staff for Republican Party candidate Mitt Romney if he became president.

“[I]dentified by the President as one of five priority regional initiatives under Executive Order 13604 … [the] [g]roup represents a dozen federal bureaus with review and permitting responsibilities that are working collaboratively to address common development obstacles associated with the Bakken boom…,” explains an August 7 U.S. Department of Interior press release.

Newly-minted U.S. Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell – a former petroleum engineer for Mobil Oil Company – recently took a trip to the Bakken Shale oil fields to advocate for the dictates of the March 2012 Executive Order.

“The group’s Aug. 6 itinerary began with a tour of a rig operated by Continental Resources Inc., followed in the afternoon by a tour of facilities operated by Statoil, which has invested more than $4 billion in the Bakken,” explained the Oil and Gas Journal.

Continental Resources’ CEO is Harold Hamm, who served as energy advisor to Mitt Romney, the Republican Party presidential nominee for the 2012 election.

“Interior continues to be a leader in implementing President Obama’s vision for a federal permitting process that is smarter [and] more efficient,” David Hayes, Department of Interior Deputy Secretary said in a June press release. “By coordinating across the many federal agencies involved in the Bakken region … we are able to offer a better process for industry.”

Obama May 2013 memo: Cut it in half

On May 17, 2013, President Obama issued an updated memorandum titled, “Modernizing Federal Infrastructure Review and Permitting Regulations, Policies, and Procedures.”

Citing his March 2012 executive order as precedent, this memo called for cutting the time it takes to approve major infrastructure projects – pipelines included – in half.

“By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and to advance the goal of cutting aggregate timelines for major infrastructure projects in half,” he states in the memo, with a final goal to “institutionalize or expand best practices or process improvements that agencies are already implementing to improve the efficiency of reviews.”

Scary math

Adding insult to injury, a recent story appearing in The Wall Street Journal explains Keystone XL’s northern half is no longer a priority for refiners, investors or the industry at large.

With a further delay in the cards due to conflicts of interest in the State Department’s environmental review process, it may start to matter less and less for Big Oil as it plans out its other options for getting its product to market going forward.

“U.S. companies that refine oil increasingly doubt that the controversial Keystone XL pipeline [northern half] will ever be built, and now they don’t particularly care,” explained the Journal.

Enbridge recently proposed an expansion for its Alberta Clipper pipeline (approved by Obama’s State Department in August 2009, now known as “Line 67”) from 450,000 barrels per day to 570,000 barrels per day to theState Department in a November 2012 application.

It upped the ante since the original Clipper expansion application — a move met with activist opposition — requested 800,000 barrels of tar sands run through it per day.

That’s on top of Enbridge’s recently proposed Nationwide Permit 12 – paralleling what TransCanada did for Keystone XL’s southern half – set to bring 600,000 barrels per day of tar sands to Cushing, Okla from Pontiac, Ill.

The reaction to pressure against building Keystone XL’s northern half has been – put simply – “build more and faster.” Simple math and geography shows – as The Wall Street Journal boasted – project permitting parameters have tilted more and more in Big Oil’s favor under President Obama’s watch.

With full-throttle expansion of the tar sands described as “game over for the climate” by now-retired NASA scientist James Hansen — and with fracked oil and gas found to be dirtier than coal when examined in its entire lifecycle according to a May 2011 Cornell University study — it makes for scary math indeed.

Sierra Club: FAIL: How Keystone XL’s tar sands flunk the climate test

tar sands

The Sierra Club

Sierra Club and Oil Change International just released an extensive report, titled “FAIL: How Keystone XL’s tar sands flunk the climate test,” to directly answer President Obama’s pledge to reject KXL if it significantly exacerbates #climate pollution.

Read more about the report:
— with Thomas Edward Pearce.

August 29, 2013
Why Keystone Flunks the Climate Test

In June President Obama set a climate test for his decision on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. He said he will not approve the pipeline if it would significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. Today the Sierra Club, Oil Change International, and 13 partner groups have released a report that settles the issue unequivocally: Keystone XL would be a climate disaster.

Our report, “FAIL: How the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline Flunks the Climate Test,” spells out the full consequences of building the pipeline.

Start with the one fact that the State Department, the U.S. EPA, climate scientists, and even Wall Street and industry analysts all agree on: The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline will create massive amounts of carbon pollution. Tar sands, after all, are the world’s dirtiest and most carbon-intensive source of oil. Oil Change International estimates that the pipeline would carry and emit more than 181-million metric tons of carbon pollution each year. That’s the pollution equivalent of adding 37.7 million cars to U.S. roads, or 51 new coal-fired power plants.

The State Department, though, tried to ignore this 181-million metric ton elephant. It argued in its environmental review of Keystone XL that tar sands development was inevitable, regardless of whether the pipeline is built. That’s not true for several reasons.

Tar sands can be processed only at specialized refineries. The accessible U.S. and Canadian refineries capable of handling it are already at or near capacity. In order to expand production, tar sands producers must reach the U.S. Gulf Coast, where the heavy crude can be refined or, more likely, exported.

Although other pipeline projects have been proposed to export tar sands east, west, and south from western Canada, all of them face legal, technical, economic, and political obstacles that make them unlikely. Using rail is too expensive because tar sands transport requires special heated rail cars and loading terminals. Industry experts and financial firms like Goldman Sachs have already said this will be cost-prohibitive.

Keystone XL is critical for the Canadian oil industry to meet its goal of massive expansion in the tar sands. You don’t need to take our word for it, though. Just this week, Canada’s independent Pembina Institute uncovered documents from the industry itself that make that case. Briefing notes prepared for Canadian natural resources minister (and pipeline proponent) Joe Oliver state: “in order for crude oil production to grow, the North American pipeline network must be expanded through initiatives, such as the Keystone XL Pipeline project.”

The U.S. Interior Department has already joined the Environmental Protection Agency in criticizing the State Department’s environmental review for disregarding how the Keystone XL pipeline would affect wildlife and waterways. Given that we now know the State Department’s review was conducted by a consultant with strong ties to Keystone XL’s backer, TransCanada, and to the tar sands industry, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised.

In fact, earlier this month, the State Department’s own office of inspector general confirmed that it has opened an into inquiry how its Keystone XL review was conducted. Perhaps the most serious charge is that State Department officials tried to cover up evidence of conflicts of interest.

For an administration that’s actually done many good things on climate, the State Department’s environmental review of Keystone XL is both a failure and an embarrassment. It’s time to kick the oil industry lobbyists out of the room, listen to the scientists, weigh the facts, and reject this pipeline once and for all.

Add your voice to the growing chorus: By President Obama’s own standard, Keystone XL should not be approved.

Bloomberg Policy & Politics: Calling All Keystone (XL) Cops! The Pipeline Hits More Snags

opposes kx

Photograph by Julia Schmalz/Bloomberg

Steyer discusses his opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline during an interview in Washington
(Updates with response from U.S. Department of State’s Office of the Inspector General in the seventh paragraph.)

Three weeks back, when we last checked in on the lively, sometimes absurd fight over the Keystone XL pipeline, opponents of the project had just raised alarm about undisclosed conflicts of interest between ERM (ERM:LN), a U.K.-based company the U.S. State Department has relied on to assess the potential environmental impact of the proposed line, and TransCanada (TRP), the company that wants to build it. Previous conflict of interest allegations about the Keystone XL had led to congressional complaints and an investigation by the Office of the Inspector General. The new disclosures raised the prospect that the project might be further delayed by a new ethics inquiry.

Since then the saga has featured still more twists, including:

• President Obama chuckling (per the New York Times) as he low-balled the number of construction jobs the pipeline might create;

• revelations that a dozen or more state and federal Republican lawmakers apparently sent letters endorsing the pipeline that had been written by fossil fuel lobbyists;

• TransCanada’s announcement of a longer, 1,864-mile, $12 billion pipeline that, if completed, would certainly make good on the company’s name, and make the Keystone XL look more like the Keystone XS; and,

• Claims by the Washington-based Checks and Balances Project that a new U.S. government special investigation is underway over ERM.

As you’d expect, proponents of the pipeline were quick to dismiss the conflict-of-interest charges as a transparent ploy to derail the pipeline’s approval process. Guilty as charged, says Friends of the Earth’s Ross Hammond. His nonprofit engaged in opposition research, as it is called during election campaigns, to turn up the evidence that ERM had worked with TransCanada on projects that it had failed to disclose to the U.S. State Department.

Calling the conflict-of-interest charges tactical, however, doesn’t mean they lack merit. Here, (PDF), for example, is a 2010 document, cached online, in which ERM lists TransCanada as a client. Does this prove that ERM has been biased toward TransCanada in its Keystone assessment? No. But unless this document is a forgery, ERM appears not to have disclosed all it should have to the U.S. government. (ERM declined to comment.)

“The Keystone XL environmental review lost all credibility when ERM lied to taxpayers about what it was up to,” says Tom Steyer, president of NextGen Climate Action. “ERM’s hubris deprives the State Department and the public of the unbiased information they need. A large group of Americans will support Secretary Kerry if he insists on doing the review in a clean, straightforward way—this time, with an honest contractor.”

The State Department maintains that it has the situation well under control. “The selected contractor works directly with and under the sole direction of the Department of State while the applicant pays for the work,” says State official Jennifer Psaki.

Steyer, a semi-retired hedge fund billionaire, is a financial supporter of President Obama, and it’s not hard to imagine that Steyer encouraged Obama to nix Keystone’s development during the president’s most recent visit to Steyer’s home. (Could Steyer be where Obama got his low jobs-created number? Hard to say. Obama’s Keystone remarks have become political sport—”Kremlinology,” even; the Washington Post’s WonkBlog did terrific work fact-checking his figures).

The Office of the Inspector General confirms that it has “initiated an inquiry” into the ERM conflict of interest complaints, and whether or not that goes anywhere, the Keystone faces a second, straight-talking judge in Gina McCarthy, the new Environmental Protection Agency chief. Whether the pipeline proceeds is ultimately up to the President. But the EPA has a role to play: It is reviewing the environmental impact studies that contractors such as ERM have conducted.

When asked about Keystone XL recently, McCarthy first jokingly got up to leave, rather than be put on the spot. Then she replied that the EPA would strive to be “an honest commenter” on the XL plans. Up to now, that honesty (PDF) has been bracing, as the EPA has called the Keystone environmental impact statements insufficient and inadequate not once, but three times.
Wieners (@bradwieners) is an executive editor for Bloomberg Businessweek.

Politico: Enviros target Keystone in new pipeline spill video
By: Matt Daily
August 1, 2013 02:10 PM EDT

An environmental group is rolling out a new tactic today to fight the Keystone XL pipeline: ananimated video showing every significant oil, gas and chemical pipeline spill in the U.S. since 1986.

The group, the Center for Biological Diversity, hopes the video will go viral and says it’s aimed at stirring up enough public awareness of the pipeline industry’s troubles to put pressure on three key Democratic senators – Bill Nelson of Florida, Michael Bennet of Colorado and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota – to oppose any pro-Keystone legislation. It’s also hoping to influence President Barack Obama’s final call on the pipeline’s future.

The video is part of a campaign aimed at spreading a simple message: Don’t trust the pipeline industry.

(WATCH: Obama says he’ll approve Keystone only if greenhouse gases won’t worsen)

Contrary to claims by the oil and gas industry, pipelines are not a safe way to ship energy, said Noah Greenwald, director of the Arizona-based group’s endangered species program. “For so many different reasons, we need to be moving away from fossil fuels,” Greenwald said. “There’s really no safe and clean way to deal with them.”

But the oil industry has said pipelines are far safer than other transportation systems, such as rail cars or trucks.

“Safety is the number one priority for the oil and natural gas industry. Pipelines are one of the safest ways to transport crude oil, gasoline, and other petroleum products, and spills are extremely rare,” said Carlton Carroll, a spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute. “Even one spill is too many, and our industry, working with regulators, continues to apply the highest standards and the latest technologies to ensure the safe delivery of the energy needed to fuel our economy.”

(PHOTOS: Climate skeptics in Congress)

The Center for Biological Diversity is perhaps best known for its aggressive tactics to enforce the Endangered Species Act, including the many lawsuits it has filed accusing agencies like the Interior Department and EPA of refusing to impose legally required protection for creatures like the polar bear, California condor and Mexican gray wolf.

Its animated spill map is based on data culled from nearly 8,000 incidents catalogued as “significant” by the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, including incidents that killed people, sent victims to the hospital, caused more than $50,000 in damages, released more than five barrels of volatile substances or triggered an explosion or fire. The spills featured in the video involved natural gas, oil and other hazardous liquids, such as diesel fuel, gasoline, fuel oil and anhydrous ammonia.

The group says the incidents have caused almost $7 billion in damage and killed more than 500 people since 1986.

“The numbers add up to 76,000 barrels per year, nearly 300 incidents per year,” Greenwald said.

The United States has more than 180,000 miles of oil and liquids pipelines and more than 305,000 miles of natural gas pipelines, according to industry data.

(WATCH: Obama’s full speech on climate change)

But the data also show that, at least in terms of the volume of the spills, the three lowest annual totals have occurred in the past five years, with the smallest volume in 2012. Greenwald acknowledged the downtrend in recent years, as well as the fact that a large percentage of the spills are very minor.

“A lot of the spills are small, but if it’s your land or the creek that you fish in Š it’s very damaging,” he said.

Environmentalists have pointed to the oil-sands crude that Keystone would carry as a particularly noxious type of oil that can be extremely difficult to clean up after a spill, particularly in water. That crude, which is mixed with light fluids to enable it to flow through pipelines, appears to sink in water, making it far more difficult to recover than crude oils that float on the surface.

That’s what happened when an Enbridge pipeline ruptured in July 2010, pouring more than 20,000 barrels of diluted oil-sands crude into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. The clean-up there is still ongoing, with the costs to Enbridge likely to approach $1 billion.

Another rupture on a pipeline owned by ExxonMobil this March sent thousands of barrels of oil streaming through a neighborhood in Mayflower, Ark.

According to PHMSA data, nearly a quarter of the pipeline accidents were caused by excavation damage, while more than 18 percent were from corrosion. Another 17 percent of the incidents happen because of faulty materials or welding problems.

The Keystone fight has been raging for five years, but with an Obama administration decision on a needed permit expected before the end of the year, supporters and opponents are ramping up their rhetoric.

The Senate may also be nearing a crucial vote in September on a pro-Keystone amendment that Republicans would try to attach to widely popular energy efficiency legislation. That outcome may depend on the votes of a handful of Democrats, including Nelson, Klobuchar and Bennet.

Obama hasn’t yet tipped his hand on whether the Keystone pipeline, which would connect the oil sands fields in Alberta, Canada, to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast, will win the permit. But his comments this week downplaying the number of jobs that the project will create gave opponents hope that he may turn it down.

In June, he warned that the pipeline shouldn’t be built if it would increase greenhouse gases, a statement that indicated the administration could be leaning on a State Department draft report that said the pipeline was a cleaner option than railroad cars or trucks to transport the oil.


Special thanks to Richard Charter

Common Dreams: Lac-Mégantic Victims Challenge Corporations Behind Deadly Explosion Death toll climbs to 42 as environmental costs continue to mount

Published on Friday, July 19, 2013 by Common Dreams
– Lauren McCauley, staff writer

Victims of the train crashed which devastated the small town of Lac-Megantic, Quebec have filed suit against the corporations behind the devastation. (Photo: Reuters)

Two residents of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec have filed a class action lawsuit against the corporations behind the July 6 train derailment and explosion which killed nearly fifty people and devastated the small Canadian town.

Yannick Gagne and Guy Ouellet, who together own the Musi-Cafe—a bar that was crowded with people the night it was destroyed by the blast—are seeking damages from the Maine-based Montreal Maine & Atlantic Railway (MM&A), Irving Oil, World Fuel Services and its subsidiary Dakota Plains Holdings, which extracted the crude oil the train was carrying.

According to the Portland Press Herald, the plaintiffs filed a motion Monday in Quebec Superior Court seeking to authorize a class-action suit against the railway company. On Wednesday, they amended the motion to include the oil and extraction companies.

The unattended train was carrying 72 cars of crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken shale fields to an Irving Oil refinery in Saint John, New Brunswick when it derailed initiating an explosion and fireball which engulfed the small downtown.

Meanwhile, the death toll for the disaster has risen to 42 after four more bodies were discovered Thursday. Eight more people remain unaccounted for though are presumed to be dead.

The impact on the town of 6,000 has been severe. Beyond the crippling effect of the casualties, the untold environmental costs continue to unfold.

An estimated 250,000 to 300,000 liters of oil spilled into Lac-Mégantic, according to Quebec’s Environment Minister. And, as the Globe and Mail report, traces of oil were visible in the Chaudière River “and the air was pungent with the scent of oil.”

“Multi-coloured sheens could be seen on the surface of the water in areas where the current slowed, and the grass along some stretches of the shoreline was brown and straw-like,” they continue.

Following the accident, finger pointing prevailed among the major corporations involved.

Edward Burkhardt, CEO of MM&A as well as its much larger parent company, Rail World Inc., had initially attempted to blame local firefighters before claiming the fault lay with a train employee for not properly setting the brakes—despite the fact that he has continuously opposed arguments by railway employees who have long-insisted that one-man crews were too dangerous.

Similarly, a spokesman for Irving Oil—whose crude fueled the small town’s incineration—told the Associated Press, “We did not own or control the crude oil or its transportation at any time.”

Of the pending suit, the Press Herald continues:

The motion claims that the companies failed to ensure the oil was properly secured and safely transported. The lawsuit would seek compensation for any person or business affected directly or indirectly by the disaster.

It was not known Thursday when the court will rule on the motion.

If a Quebec Superior Court judge approves the motion, the lawsuit could be among the largest in Canadian history, though according to Jeff Orenstein, a lawyer from one of the firms working on the suit, no dollar amount on the damages sought will be available for some time.

“It will require interviews with the people of the city and expert evaluators as well,” Orenstein said. “There is no number I can pin down without much further research and expertise.”


CREDO action: There’s never been more going on in the fight against climate change. Here’s how you can get involved.

You know how, in the summer, your local newspaper comes out with a guide to the concerts and festivals going on? This email is sort of like that – only it’s about ways you can get out there to help save the planet.

The resistance to the fossil industry, and its climate heating projects like the Keystone XL pipeline, has never been bigger.

Of course, it’s never been more urgent either. In June we witnessed historically devastating wildfires in Colorado and Arizona, a record-breaking 90+ degree heat wave in Alaska,1 the deadliest monsoon season in recent history in India, and record flooding devastation in Germany and Canada, even as New Mexico farmers suffered through the shortest irrigation season ever, with drought drying the Rio Grand into the “Rio Sand.”2 (To name a few.)

No wonder regular folks are standing up across the country in unprecedented numbers; from pipeline fighters and blockaders in Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Michigan and Maine, coal-export activists in the Pacific Northwest, those holding the line against fracking in New York and drawing a line in California, and of course, the nearly 70,000 activists across the country who have signed the Pledge of Resistance to the “game over for the climate” Keystone XL Pipeline. (To name a few.)

The President’s climate speech and his promise to reject Keystone XL if it increases carbon emissions is proof positive that we’re making an impact. But the fact that that determination is being made by a shady State Department process and a shady oil-industry contractor who hid its ties to TransCanada3 shows that the deck is still stacked against us, and the fossil fuel industry isn’t afraid to play the ace up its sleeve.

Th next few months are crucial to escalate our pressure. Here’s how you can help:

July: Pledge of Resistance Action Leader Trainings
Hundreds of activists have already been trained by CREDO, Rainforest Action Network and The Other 98% to lead peaceful, dignified civil-disobedience actions in their community, to be ready if the State Department recommends approval of Keystone XL.4 There are three more weekends of trainings, in 14 cities across the country – get to one of these cities if you want to be part of leading this amazing organizing effort against Keystone XL. Here’s the schedule:

July 20-21: Tampa, Miami, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Dallas, Houston
July 27-28: Raleigh, Atlanta, Des Moines, Kansas City, Tulsa
August 3-4: Cincinnati, Salt Lake City
RSVP to be trained as a #NoKXL Pledge of Resistance Action Leader

July/August: SummerHeat actions
Our friends at 350 are working with local groups to plan a dozen big actions across the country this month to oppose Keystone XL, coal, fracking, toxic pollution, and the industry that brings them to us. Most of the actions will feature a rally and an optional direct action, where participants may be risking arrest. Those participating in direct action will need to attend a training the day before. Everyone is welcome at the rallies, whether or not you will be risking arrest.
See the SummerHeat action map and get involved.

August, September and October: #NoKXL Pledge of Resistance Sit-ins
We need to keep our pressure on the Obama administration as we await a final decision on Keystone XL. To demonstrate the commitment of the nearly 70,000 people who have pledged to risk arrest if the State Department recommends approval of Keystone XL, and of the hundreds of people who are being trained to organize them, CREDO, Rainforest Action Network and The Other 98% are planning major sit-ins in the months of August, September and October. We’re starting with an action on August 12, in front of State Department Headquarters in Washington, DC. Here’s the schedule:

Monday, August 12: #NoKXL sit-in at the State Department, Washington, DC. RSVP here
Monday, September 16: #NoKXL sit-in, Houston, TX. RSVP here
Monday, October 7: #NoKXL sit-in, Boston, MA. RSVP here

It goes without saying, these are just some of the amazing things going on across the country this summer in the fight for climate justice. Check out the Fearless Summer site to see more updates from more actions all around the country.

We have lots to do, we need your help, and we hope you get involved. If you can’t attend a training or action, the best way you can help us oppose Keystone XL is by chipping in with a donation to help pull off this massive organizing effort.

Thanks for standing with us this summer, and in all the fights ahead.

Elijah Zarlin, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets

1. “June 2013 Global Weather Extremes Summary,” Weather Underground, 7/15/13
2. “Ongoing Drought In New Mexico Turns Rio Grande Into ‘Rio Sand’,” Think Progress, 7/15/13
3. “State Dept Contractor ERM Lied About TransCanada Ties, Another Fatal Flaw of Environmental Review,” DeSmog Blog, 7/10/13
4. “#NoKXL Trainings in The Huffington Post & Wall Street Journal – See more at:,” 7/13/13

Center for Biologic Diversity: This is Our Land; Don’t Frack it Up

Contact the Center for Biologic Diversity today to support their efforts to end fracking on American lands. DV

Our landmark national parks are under siege: A dozen areas in the national park system already house oil and gas operations, and 30 areas may be threatened by drilling in the future.

This means our cherished public lands face severe air and water pollution, the animals and plants that depend on these lands will experience devastating habitat loss, and people who spend time on these public lands will see their health threatened and their experience of nature degraded.

Theodore Roosevelt and Grand Teton national parks are just two cherished places threatened by the rapid expansion of oil and natural gas drilling and fracking. Nationwide the Bureau of Land Management estimates that 90 percent of new oil and gas wells on federal land are fracked.

But the Bureau’s new draft fracking rules are even weaker than in the past. Sadly, these regulations seem designed to encourage as much fracking as possible, while doing little to protect the environment or people’s health.

Now’s our chance to ensure the feds take real steps to protect our national treasures. Tell the Bureau of Land Management to ban fracking on our public lands.

Huffington Post: Fracking Protesters Follow Hickenlooper To Aspen At Democratic Governors Association Meeting (PHOTOS)

The Colorado Independent | By Andrea Tudhope
Posted: 07/15/2013 4:25 pm EDT | Updated: 07/15/2013 5:08 pm EDT

ASPEN- This tiny resort town, set high above the heavily plied natural-gas fields of the Colorado Front Range, was the unlikely scene on Saturday of the latest clash in the running battle in the state over the controversial natural-gas-extraction method known as fracking. More than 100 anti-fracking protesters gathered outside the Democratic Governors Association meeting held here, waving signs, shouting slogans and staging street-theater scenes in an attempt to draw the attention of Governor John Hickenlooper and the other “important state leaders and presidential hopefuls” in attendance.


“Ideally people will stop and listen, take notice, ask questions, get educated,” said protester Megan Brody. “That would be my hope.”

Passersby stopped to watch the action as it unfolded in front of the St Regis Resort, the city’s iconic ski mountains making a green and jagged backdrop in the summer sun. Some of the spectators shook their heads. But many walked up or stopped their cars to pose a question to the nearest protester: ‘What’s fracking?’

fracking 2

For Charles Bucknam, who joined the protest from Parker, the question was telling. “The government has the responsibility to let the people know what’s going on,” he said. Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a process that blasts millions of gallons of water mixed with sand and chemicals deep into the earth to loosen up trapped gas. The protesters are concerned that the public health effects of fracking have been downplayed and that the way the heavy industrial activity has been allowed to spread into residential areas of the state will result in illness and depressed property values. They say putting the interests of the drilling industry over environmental health and safety runs against hard-won Colorado values. They add that people come here for the outdoor lifestyle, for the clean air and the stunning Rocky Mountain landscape.

fracking 3
“I would never have guessed that this would have happened in Colorado. I moved here on purpose,” said Longmont resident Mike Taylor. “We pulled up 51 years of roots and came [to Colorado]. Now here I am standing here with a sign in my hand because I feel like my health and my future is being compromised for dollars and nothing more than dollars.”

The protest comes on the heels of news that the state’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, with Hickenlooper’s approval, joined a lawsuit filed by drilling companies to override a ban on fracking passed by voters in Longmont last year. The ballot initiative banned fracking within the city limits and was supported by roughly 60 percent of city voters. Longmont, about a four-hour drive from Aspen, sits on the eastern plains atop the Wattenberg Field, one of the largest natural gas fields in the country.

Hickenlooper, a former oil-and-gas-industry geologist, has worked to defend fracking. He sees it as an innovative process that will boost the use of natural gas over coal, arguing that gas is a cleaner “bridge” fuel spanning the time from now to an era when renewable energy will mostly fuel the nation. He opposed the Longmont ban because he believes it’s the state’s responsibility to make a comprehensive set of regulations for the industry to follow.

fracking 4
“Democracy is being undermined by the Governor and the [Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission],” Taylor said. “I mean, they’re all in it together. They might as well just step into the same trousers every morning.”

Bucknam agreed. “[Hickenlooper] represents the industry instead of the people,” he said. For many in attendance, the protest was about raising awareness. Thirteen-year-old activist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, youth leader of the nonprofit Earth Guardians, has been recognized around the world as one of the biggest little voices in the environmental movement. Most recently, he and the youth team at Earth Guardians put together a presentation called “Fracking 101.”

“We’re taking it into communities that are getting fracked that don’t really know what’s happening to them, don’t know why they’re getting sick, why they’re getting skin rashes, why they’re getting nose bleeds and headaches and cancer,” he said.

“There’s no point in learning about an issue if you’re not going to do anything about it.”

Among the protesters, or “fracktivists,” were representatives and volunteers from groups that included 350 Colorado, Frack Free Colorado, Food and Water Watch, Garfield Transparency Initiative. The protest was organized by Protect Our Colorado, a coalition fighting to protect Colorado from drilling and fracking.

Health concerns are the top priority for the activists. In reference to the U.S. Senate committee meeting in 2012 where Hickenlooper claimed fracking fluid was safe enough to sip, the protesters brought in Hickenlooper look-alike Mike McLoughlin, Denver-based actor and electrician, for a dramatic interpretation of fracking-fluid taste-testing.

fracking 5
Former cell biology professor at NYU, Virginia Black, now a Longmont resident, is mystified by the government’s loose approach to regulating the process. “I don’t understand why chemicals that I could not pour down the sink for fear of contaminating water and air would not be regulatedŠ in fracking. Those are massive amounts of chemicals,” Black said.

A woman named Phyllis from Paonia said she felt an urgency to join the protest.

“It’s either speak up now or never, because it’s going to be too late. The environment isn’t going to continue to support us.”

Go to link to see slide show below:

State Lawmakers And Environmental Activists Express Opposition To Hydro Fracking
NEW YORK, NY – JANUARY 11: Opponents of hydraulic fracturing in New York state attend a news conference and rally against hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, on January 11, 2012 in New York City. The event, which was held on the steps of City Hall, called for an end to the controversial gas drilling method as environmental groups increasingly warn about contamination of the state’s aquifers that could poison its drinking water. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
State Lawmakers And Environmental Activists Express Opposition To Hydro Fracking
NEW YORK, NY – JANUARY 11: Eric Weltman of Food & Water Watch attends a news conference and rally against hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, in New York State on January 11, 2012 in New York City. The event, which was held on the steps of City Hall, called for an end to the controversial gas drilling method as environmental groups increasingly warn about contamination of the state’s aquifers that could poison its drinking water. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Department Of Environmental Conservation Holds Hydro Fracking Hearing
NEW YORK, NY – NOVEMBER 30: Opponents and supporters of gas-drilling, or fracking, walk into the last of four public hearings on proposed fracking regulations in upstate New York on November 30, 2011 in New York City. Fracking, a process that injects millions of gallons of chemical mixed water into a well in order to release gas, has become a contentious issue in New York as critics of the process belive it contaminates drinking water among other hazards. NewYork City gets much of its drinking water from upstate reservoirs. If the regulations are approved, drilling in the upstate New York Marcellus Shale could begin next year. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Cuadrilla Shale Fracking Plant
PRESTON, LANCASHIRE – OCTOBER 07: Engineers on the drilling platform of the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. The controversial method of extracting gas by pumping high pressure water and chemicals into shale formations deep underground has been blamed for two minor earthquakes in the surrounding region. Environmental campaigners are calling for a halt to the drilling of what Cuadrilla believe could be significant reserves of natural gas. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)
Cuadrilla Shale Fracking Plant
PRESTON, LANCASHIRE – OCTOBER 07: Engineers at work on the drilling platform of the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. The controversial method of extracting gas by pumping high pressure water and chemicals into shale formations deep underground has been blamed for two minor earthquakes in the surrounding region. Environmental campaigners are calling for a halt to the drilling of what Cuadrilla believe could be significant reserves of natural gas. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)
Cuadrilla Shale Fracking Plant
PRESTON, LANCASHIRE – OCTOBER 07: General views of the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. The controversial method of extracting gas by pumping high pressure water and chemicals into shale formations deep underground has been blamed for two minor earthquakes in the surrounding region. Environmental campaigners are calling for a halt to the drilling of what Cuadrilla believe could be significant reserves of natural gas. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)
Cuadrilla Shale Fracking Plant
PRESTON, LANCASHIRE – OCTOBER 07: Engineers look at the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. The controversial method of extracting gas by pumping high pressure water and chemicals into shale formations deep underground has been blamed for two minor earthquakes in the surrounding region. Environmental campaigners are calling for a halt to the drilling of what Cuadrilla believe could be significant reserves of natural gas. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)
Cuadrilla Shale Fracking Plant
PRESTON, LANCASHIRE – OCTOBER 07: A lump of shale rock on display at the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. The controversial method of extracting gas by pumping high pressure water and chemicals into shale formations deep underground has been blamed for two minor earthquakes in the surrounding region. Environmental campaigners are calling for a halt to the drilling of what Cuadrilla believe could be significant reserves of natural gas. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)
Cuadrilla Shale Fracking Plant
PRESTON, LANCASHIRE – OCTOBER 07: Engineers on the drilling platform of the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. The controversial method of extracting gas by pumping high pressure water and chemicals into shale formations deep underground has been blamed for two minor earthquakes in the surrounding region. Environmental campaigners are calling for a halt to the drilling of what Cuadrilla believe could be significant reserves of natural gas. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)
Cuadrilla Shale Fracking Plant
PRESTON, LANCASHIRE – OCTOBER 07: Engineers at work on the drilling platform of the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. The controversial method of extracting gas by pumping high pressure water and chemicals into shale formations deep underground has been blamed for two minor earthquakes in the surrounding region. Environmental campaigners are calling for a halt to the drilling of what Cuadrilla believe could be significant reserves of natural gas. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)
Cuadrilla Shale Fracking Plant
PRESTON, LANCASHIRE – OCTOBER 07: Drill heads on display at the entrance to the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. The controversial method of extracting gas by pumping high pressure water and chemicals into shale formations deep underground has been blamed for two minor earthquakes in the surrounding region. Environmental campaigners are calling for a halt to the drilling of what Cuadrilla believe could be significant reserves of natural gas. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)
Cuadrilla Shale Fracking Plant
PRESTON, LANCASHIRE – OCTOBER 07: An engineer displays a lump of shale rock at the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. The controversial method of extracting gas by pumping high pressure water and chemicals into shale formations deep underground has been blamed for two minor earthquakes in the surrounding region. Environmental campaigners are calling for a halt to the drilling of what Cuadrilla believe could be significant reserves of natural gas. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)
Hydraulic Fracturing Prevention Press Conference
NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 25: Actor/director Mark Ruffalo (C) speaks at the Hydraulic Fracturing prevention press conference urging the protection of the drinking water source of 15 million Americans at Foley Square on April 25, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images)
Hydraulic Fracturing Prevention Press Conference
NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 25: (L-R) Actor/director Mark Ruffalo, Denise Katzman, Wenonah Hauter, and Water Defense co-founder/campaign director Claire Sandberg attend the Hydraulic Fracturing prevention press conference urging the protection of the drinking water source of 15 million Americans at Foley Square on April 25, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images)
Josh Fox on Obama, the EPA, and House Republicans Who Had Him Arrested
HuffPost Green Editor Joanna Zelman talks to Josh Fox, director of the documentary ‘Gasland,’ about hydro-fracking, the EPA, and the House Republicans who had him arrested during a Congressional hearing.
Game Changer in Green: Mark Ruffalo
The expertise and the grassroots zeal Mark Ruffalo has brought to the issue of fracking is changing the game in green.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Scientific American: The fate of the Alberta’s tar sands mines—and the climate—may come down to the Keystone XL pipeline
Go to link to see:
big-truck-dumping-oil-sands Photo Album
Pay Dirt: How to Turn Tar Sands into Oil [Slide Show]

July 2013 Scientific American Magazine: Oil Sands May Irrevocably Tar the Climate

OIL MINING: Alberta’s tar sands region is one of the few places in the world where oil can be dug out of the ground.

By David Biello

In Brief

Turning tar sands into oil and burning it as fuel produce enormous amounts of carbon dioxide.
To prevent an average global temperature increase of more than two degrees Celsius, triggering potentially catastrophic climate change, cumulative carbon emissions must be kept below one trillion metric tons.
The earth’s atmosphere is already more than halfway to the trillion-metric-ton target; expanding production of even more tar sands would accelerate emissions.
If built, the Keystone XL pipeline will be a spigot that speeds tar sands production, pushing the planet toward its emissions limit.

Red lights are flashing, but Ben Johnson pays them no mind. The long, lean, weathered engineer rests against a counter lined with computer monitors, describing life in the tar sands mines of Alberta, Canada. His task is to take a mud made of ore and water and “liberate the bitumen,” a tarlike oil that can be refined into conventional crude oil. He and two colleagues man a monitoring station that sits near the base of a cone-shaped structure the size of a three-story building. Mud and hot water flow into the middle of the inverted funnel. Bitumen rises to the top and spills over onto surrounding grates.

One time in 2012 bitumen bubbled up so fast that it cascaded down the sides of the cone and flooded the building shin high. To keep this kind of thing from happening again, sensors track temperatures, pressures and other parameters, and if something is amiss, a warning goes off. This happens so often—“1,000 alarms a day,” Johnson says—that the engineers have taken to keeping the sound turned off. “It’s not going ‘bing, bing, bing,’” he says, “because that would drive us crazy.”

Suncor Energy’s North Steepbank mine, where Johnson operates one of many “separator cells,” is a tiny portion of the current output of Alberta’s tar sands, which underlie an area the size of Florida. High oil prices over the past decade have made such tar sands mines profitable, and Canada has rapidly expanded production. In 2012 alone Alberta exported more than $55 billion worth of oil, mostly to the U.S., so it is no wonder that Johnson’s crew does not pause for alarms.

The rush to exploit the Alberta tar sands is triggering alarms of another kind, however—from climate scientists. Carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels are driving the world quickly toward a greenhouse gas threshold—an atmospheric concentration of 450 parts per million, which corresponds to two degrees Celsius or more of warming—beyond which some scientists fear that climate change could prove catastrophic. Coal constitutes a bigger source of fossilized carbon, but the Alberta sands require more energy to mine and refine than conventional oil, adding an extra overhead in greenhouse gas emissions. And the tar sands operations are growing far more quickly than most other sources of oil. Releasing the carbon now trapped in the tar sands would most likely dash any hope of avoiding the two degree C threshold.

The fate of Alberta’s tar sands—and the climate, for that matter—now seems to be converging on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Keystone XL, which would run from Alberta to refineries in Texas along the Gulf of Mexico, would serve as a primary conduit for tar sands crude. For a decade or more advocates of Alberta’s operations have argued that the tar sands constitute a much needed source of oil for the U.S. that is not subject to turmoil in the Middle East and abroad. All that was needed was a way to transport the tar sands oil from Canada to where it would be used—to the U.S. and beyond to Europe and Asia. And if a pipeline like Keystone XL could not be built, then other pipelines or rail could do as well. But independent experts suggest that Keystone XL is critical to the continued growth of Alberta’s tar sands industry.

None of this had come to light when President Barack Obama postponed a decision on whether to build the Keystone XL pipeline during his reelection campaign. When the issue comes up again, a great deal more will be riding on his decision.

The Trillionth Tonne

Exposed to the bitter chill of a northern Alberta winter at an overlook above Suncor’s mine, I can’t help but think that a little global warming might be nice. The mine is located in an industrial expanse of boreal forest some 30 kilometers north of Fort McMurray, a boom town where rents run as high as Manhattan’s and truck drivers make $100,000 a year. Down below, along a gravel road, I can see a parade of Caterpillar 797Fs, the world’s largest trucks, each carrying a 400-metric-ton load of clumped tar sands. (Women drivers are highly sought because they are easier on the equipment, but they are hard to come by because men outnumber women three to one in town.) The trucks shuttle back and forth between massive electric-powered shovels and Johnson’s separation facility, a 40-minute round-trip.

The trucks dump the ore into an industrial grinder the size of a compact car, which feeds an oversized conveyor belt that brings the tar sands to the separation cell that Johnson helps to oversee. A chunk of ore can go from truck to liberated bitumen in a mere 30 minutes. This black and sticky but free bitumen froths from the top of the separator, is collected and then flows down a pipeline to a mini refinery, where it is cooked at high heat to remove carbon and create a hydrocarbon stew similar to crude oil. Alternatively, the bitumen is mixed with lighter hydrocarbons in squat, huge storage tanks; the resulting mixture, known as dilbit (for diluted bitumen), is liquid enough to flow on its own through long-distance pipelines like Keystone XL, bound for refineries in the U.S.

Suncor’s North Steepbank is only a small fraction of the world’s first tar sands mine—and just one of the company’s complex of mines, which together produce more than 300,000 barrels of oil a day. Suncor’s holdings make up about 30 percent of the total production from mining of the Alberta tar sands, which currently comes to nearly two million barrels a day—equal to the output of more than 80,000 oil wells and one twentieth of U.S. demand. The mines, with their vast lakes of toxic water residue and blocks of bright yellow elemental sulfur, are already big enough to see from space—an industrial patch steadily spreading in the boreal forest.

The invisible environmental impact of the mines may prove the most challenging, however. Avoiding the two degree C warming threshold means that humanity faces what some scientists have called a carbon budget: an estimated one-trillion-metric-ton limit on cumulative carbon emissions.

The carbon budget is the brainchild of physicist Myles Allen of the University of Oxford and six other scientists. In 2009 the team assembled observations of rising temperatures and plugged them into computer models of future climate change, which accounted for, among other things, the fact that CO2 persists in the atmosphere, continuing to trap heat, for centuries. Their one-trillion-metric-ton budget encompasses all the carbon that human activity can safely generate between now and the year 2050, if we are to stay below the warming threshold. It doesn’t matter how quickly we reach that limit. What matters is not exceeding it. “Tons of carbon is fundamental,” argues now retired nasa climatologist James E. Hansen, who has been testifying about climate change since 1988 and has recently been arrested at protests against the Keystone XL pipeline. “It does not matter much how fast you burn it.”

The source of that carbon does not matter, either. The world can burn through only a set amount of carbon-based fuels, whether tar sands, coal, natural gas, wood or any other source of greenhouse gases. “From the perspective of the climate system, a CO2 molecule is a CO2 molecule, and it doesn’t matter if it came from coal versus natural gas,” notes climate modeler Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for Science’s department of global ecology at Stanford University.

To date, burning fossil fuels, clearing forests and other activities have put nearly 570 billion metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere—and more than 250 billion metric tons of CO2 just since the year 2000, according to Allen. Currently human activities emit about 35 billion metric tons of CO2 (9.5 billion metric tons of carbon) a year, a figure that is steadily climbing, along with the global economy. By Allen’s calculations, at present rates society will emit the trillionth metric ton of carbon sometime during the summer of 2041. To stay on budget, on the other hand, emissions must drop by 2.5 percent a year, starting now.

Underground Treasure

Alberta’s tar sands represent a lot of buried carbon, the remains of countless algae and other microscopic life that lived hundreds of millions of years ago in a warm inland sea, pulling CO2 out of the atmosphere via photosynthesis. With today’s technology, about 170 billion barrels of oil could be recovered from Alberta’s tar sands, which would add roughly 25 billion metric tons of carbon to the atmosphere if burned. An additional 1.63 trillion barrels of oil—which would add 250 billion metric tons of carbon—waits underground if engineers could figure out a way to separate every last bit of bitumen from the sand. “If we burn all the tar sands oil, the temperature rise just from burning those tar sands will be half of what we’ve already seen,” or roughly 0.4 degree C of global warming, notes mechanical engineer John P. Abraham of the University of St. Thomas–Minnesota.

Surface mining can reach deposits as deep as 80 meters, but that accounts for only 20 percent of the tar sands. In many places, the tar sands lie hundreds of meters underground, and energy firms have developed a method—known as in situ production—to melt out the bitumen in place.

In 2012 Cenovus Energy melted more than 64,000 barrels of underground bitumen every day at Christina Lake, a facility in Alberta named after nearby waters. The operation is one of the frontier camps of this latest tar sands boom. Clouds of steam rise from the nine industrial boilers on-site, burning natural gas to heat treated water into 350 degree C steam. Cenovus employees in a control room even bigger than Suncor’s inject the steam deep below the surface to melt the bitumen, which is then sucked back to the surface through a well and piped off for further processing. Greg Fagnan, Christina Lake’s director of operations, likens the complex to a giant water-processing facility “that happens to produce oil as well.” Every once in a while, a blowout shoots steam and partially melted tar sands into the sky, like one Devon Energy caused in the summer of 2010 by using too much pressure.

At Christina Lake, engineers inject roughly two barrels of steam to pump back out one barrel of bitumen. All that steam—and the natural gas burned to heat it—means melting bitumen results in two and a half times more greenhouse gas pollution than surface mining, itself among the highest emitters for any kind of oil production. Greater production by this melting method has caused greenhouse gas emissions from Alberta’s tar sands to rise by 16 percent since just 2009, according to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. In 2012, for the first time, underground production of tar sands in Alberta equaled that of surface mining, and thanks to efforts such as Christina Lake, it will soon become the primary mode of production.

In situ production works only for bitumen that is buried below 200 meters, however. That leaves a gap of 120 meters or so that is too deep for surface mining but too shallow for in situ. So far engineers have not figured out how to tap the gap, which means burning all the fuel contained in the tar sands deposits is an unlikely prospect at present.

Yet burning a significant portion of tar sands will go a long way toward blowing the planet’s carbon budget. The only way to do so and stay on budget would be to stop burning coal or other fossil fuels—or to find a way to drastically reduce tar sands’ greenhouse gas emissions. Neither prospect seems likely. Tar sands “emissions have doubled since 1990 and will double again by 2020,” argues Jennifer Grant, director of oil sands research at the Pembina Institute, a Canadian environmental group.

Keystone Connection

This carbon budget explains why Abraham, Caldeira and Hansen joined 15 other scientists to sign a letter to President Obama urging him to reject the proposed 2,700-kilometer-long Keystone XL pipeline. Building the pipeline—and thus enabling even more tar sands production—is “counter to both national and planetary interests,” the scientists wrote.

Obama, who postponed approval of the pipeline just before the 2012 presidential election, struck a climate-friendly note in his second inaugural address as well as his 2013 State of the Union speech. His decision on Keystone XL will come after the State Department releases its final report on the pipeline.

In a first draft of its report, the State Department downplayed the pipeline’s impact, both on the viability of the tar sands operations and on the environment. Keystone XL, it said, would be “unlikely to have a substantial impact” on greenhouse gas emissions. But the authors of the report seem to have assumed that if Keystone XL were not built, Canada would find some other economical way of transporting the oil to consumers.

The Environmental Protection Agency issued a response in April that cast the matter in a different light. According to Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for epa’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, the State Department report relied on faulty economics, among other oversights. The epa, drawing on past experience with big environmental assessments, suggested that alternatives to Keystone XL were either significantly more costly or faced major opposition. Having to get by without Keystone XL, in other words, might constrain tar sands development. In May the International Energy Agency (IEA) confirmed this analysis in its own prediction for the tar sands.

Tar sands oil is already traveling south by train, but this is a stopgap measure. Moving tar sands by rail is three times more expensive than by pipeline at current rates. As the tar sands operations ramp up, rail alone could prove a prohibitive cost barrier to further development.

What about another pipeline, should Keystone XL fail? Canada has the option of going west to the Pacific Coast to reach supertankers bound for China. Or it could go east, through existing pipelines, to the Midwest or the Atlantic Coast. These options are problematic. A Pacific pipeline—the least viable choice—would have to traverse the Rocky Mountains, passing through land owned by First Nations and other native groups in British Columbia, who have opposed a pipeline for fear of spills and other impacts. An Atlantic pipeline could be cobbled together from pipelines that now link Alberta to the eastern coast of North America. Engineers would have to reverse the flow of oil, much as ExxonMobil did for the Pegasus pipeline, which now carries crude from Illinois to Texas. But older pipelines that have been reversed may be more prone to leaks. Pegasus, for instance, sprung a tar sands oil leak in Arkansas this past April. And retrofitting existing pipelines is likely to elicit strong protest from environmentalists and others.

Given these obstacles, the tar sands industry needs Keystone XL to further expand, according to the epa and IEA reports. At present, Alberta’s tar sands produce 1.8 million barrels of oil a day. Keystone XL would ship another 830,000 barrels daily.

Mindful of the environmental opposition, Alberta and energy firms have tried to minimize greenhouse gas pollution in the tar sands operations. Royal Dutch Shell is trying an expensive alternative to breaking down bitumen into oil that involves adding hydrogen, rather than cooking off carbon into pet coke, to reduce CO2 emissions. The international oil giant has also begun developing plans for adding carbon capture and storage equipment to one of its mini refineries, a project dubbed Quest. When completed in 2015, Quest will attempt to annually store deep underground one million metric tons of CO2, or roughly one third of the facility’s pollution. Another similar project plans to capture CO2 for use to flush more conventional oil out of the ground.

Alberta is also one of the only oil-producing regions in the world to have a tax on carbon. Currently capped at $15 per metric ton, discussions continue to potentially raise that price. The province has invested the more than $300 million collected to date in technology development, primarily to reduce CO2 emissions from the tar sands. The tax “gives us some ammunition when people attack us for our carbon footprint, if nothing else,” Ron Liepert, then Alberta’s minister of energy, told me in 2011.

Efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of the tar sands add further to the cost of extracting the oil and have not had a big impact on the carbon footprint. The 1.8 million barrels of tar sands oil a day produced in 2011 resulted in more than 47 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions in 2011, according to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

The IEA, in a 2010 analysis of ways to stay below the two degree C threshold, suggested that tar sands production in Alberta cannot exceed 3.3 million barrels a day by 2035. Yet mining already approved or under construction in Alberta could raise production to five million barrels a day by 2030. It’s hard to imagine how to mine the tar sands without blowing the carbon budget.

Breaking the Carbon Budget

Is it unfair to single out the tar sands? After all, other forms of fossil fuel add more to the world’s carbon budget, yet they do not draw as much ire. Perhaps they should. In 2011 U.S. coal-fired power plants emitted nearly two billion metric tons of greenhouse gases—roughly eight times the amount produced by mining, refining and burning tar sands. Many coal mines around the world create just as visible a scar on the landscape and an even bigger climate change legacy. Yet mines like those in Montana and Wyoming’s Powder River Basin are not the targets of high-profile protests such as those facing Keystone XL; protesters do not tie themselves to the tracks to block the kilometers-long trains that carry coal from the basin day after day. The U.S. Geological Survey suggests that basin alone holds 150 billion metric tons of coal that could be recovered with existing technology. Burning it all would send the world flying beyond any trillion-metric-ton carbon budget.

Australia’s plan to expand coal exports to Asia could add 1.2 billion metric tons of CO2 to the atmosphere each year when that coal is burned. That amount dwarfs emissions from even the most optimistic tar sands expansion. The U.S. and countries such as Indonesia are also planning coal expansions. Shutting down or even curtailing the U.S. coal industry would more than compensate for any tar sands development as a result of Keystone XL, although the two fossil fuels are used for different purposes—coal for electricity, oil for transportation.

Canada also offers a target of some convenience, given that it is a friendly democracy susceptible to environmental pressure. Producers of “heavy oil”—similar in pollution to tar sands bitumen—in Mexico, Nigeria or Venezuela do not find themselves under as much scrutiny despite high rates of CO2 pollution. In fact, scouring such heavy oil from an old field in California is the single worst CO2 polluter among all oil-extraction efforts in the world, including the melted tar sands. “If you think that using other petroleum sources [than tar sands] is much better, then you’re delusional,” says chemical engineer Murray Gray, scientific director of the Center for Oil Sands Innovation at the University of Alberta. “Increasing coal use worldwide gives me a lot more pause.”

These other sources of petroleum are not growing anywhere near as fast as Alberta’s oil sands, where in the past decade production increased by more than a million barrels a day. To keep to the atmospheric carbon budget, the world must produce less than half of the known and economically recoverable oil, gas and coal reserves. That means much of the fossil fuel—especially the dirtiest forms of petroleum, such as that produced from the tar sands—will have to stay buried.

Economic forces may come to the aid of the global environment. Fracking for oil in North Dakota’s portion of the Bakken Shale has begun to depress U.S. demand for Canada’s dirty oil; in response, new infrastructure projects in Alberta’s tar sands, such as the $12-billion Voyageur mini refinery, have been dropped. New mandatory fuel-efficiency standards for U.S. cars will reduce demand as well, at least in the short term. Regardless, the tar sands will be there, waiting, an ever tempting target for future extraction once the easier oil runs out.

If the Keystone XL pipeline is approved or other means are built to get the tar sands oil to China, exports could continue to rise, accelerating the invisible accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere. Instead of reducing emissions by 2.5 percent a year, starting now—the effort Oxford physicist Allen calculates is necessary to keep the planet clear of the two degree C threshold—global greenhouse gas pollution will continue to increase. Every bit of carbon from burning fossil fuels—tar sands or otherwise—counts.

This article was originally published with the title Greenhouse Goo.


David Biello is an associate editor at Scientific American.


Warming Caused by Cumulative Carbon Emissions towards the Trillionth Tonne. Myles R. Allen et al. in Nature, Vol. 458, pages 1163–1166; April 30, 2009.

The Alberta Oil Sands and Climate. Neil C. Swart and Andrew J. Weaver in Nature Climate Change, Vol. 2, pages 134–136; February 19, 2012.

The Facts on Oil Sands. Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, 2013. Available as a PDF at

For a more in-depth look at tar sands production, visit

read more at the link above………….

Environmental Action: Support the Walk for Our Grandchildren against Keystone XL

Elders March: click on the site above to sign up to support the 2013 Walk for our Grandchildren as they walk the 100 miles from Camp David to the White House to Say “No on Keystone XL!”

This elder-led, intergenerational march will begin July 21st and culminate in a rally July 27th in DC and is part of the Summer Heat series of climate actions. It will also feature the voices of youth like Nelson Kanuk, a Yup’ik native from Kipnuk, AK.

Add your message to the Walk participants, tell them how and why they are walking for you. Then stay tuned, we’ll keep you posted with their stories from the road.

Common Dreams: Fracking: Causes Water Pollution, Global Warming, and now… ‘Earthquake Swarms’

Friday July 12th, 2013
New research shows that extent of damage caused by controversial gas drilling practice is worse than previously known
– Jon Queally, staff writer

Filmmaker Josh Fox (C) joins a protest against fracking in California, in Los Angeles in this May 30, 2013 file photo. (Photo: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

Though the main concerns of most anti-fracking activists continue to be the devastation to water quality, community health issues, and the role hydraulic fracture drilling plays in planetary global warming, a new study reveals that the practice can also have much larger impacts on another dangerous phenomenon: earthquakes.

It’s not news that gas drilling causes small, localized tremors around fracking sites, but new research presented by one of the top seismology labs in the world on Thursday shows how “swarms of minor earthquakes”—as Reuters reports—can lead to subsequent and larger ones with much more dire consequences.

Geologists have known for 50 years that injecting fluid underground can increase pressure on seismic faults and make them more likely to slip. The result is an “induced” quake.

A recent surge in U.S. oil and gas production – much of it using vast amounts of water to crack open rocks and release natural gas, as in fracking, or to bring up oil and gas from standard wells – has been linked to an increase in small to moderate induced earthquakes in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Ohio, Texas and Colorado.

Now seismologists at Columbia University say they have identified three quakes – in Oklahoma, Colorado and Texas – that were triggered at injection-well sites by major earthquakes a long distance away.

“The fluids (in wastewater injection wells) are driving the faults to their tipping point,” said Nicholas van der Elst of Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York, who led the study. It was funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Geological Survey.

As news of the the latest scientific findings reverberated in the news cycle, filmmaker and anti-fracking activist Josh Fox appeared on Democracy Now! to discuss their significance and discuss his latest film, Gasland 2, which takes an up-close look at the global fracking boom and the political economy of the gas industry that supports it.

Beyond the deeply troubling destruction that gas fracking has done to the communities where drilling has occurred—including the potential damage caused by earthquakes and injection wells—Fox emphasizes that the global impacts of natural gas on global warming should be of paramount concern.

“Moving from coal to fracked gas doesn’t give you any climate benefit at all,” Fox said in a pushback to claims that gas is less damaging to the climate than coal or oil. “So the plan should be about how we’re moving off of fossil fuels and onto alternate energy.”

Watch the full interview:

_____________________________________ Exxon cites manufacturing defect for Arkansas oil spill, (raising more concerns…..)

Chris Tackett
Energy / Energy Disasters
July 11, 2013
Screen capture KATV

Exxon Mobil announced today that it believes a manufacturing defect is the cause of the pipeline rupture that spilled nearly 300,000 gallons of tar sands oil in Mayflower, Arkansas.

From the Exxon press statement:
Based on the metallurgical analysis, the independent laboratory concluded that the root cause of the failure can be attributed to original manufacturing defects – namely hook cracks near the seam.

Additional contributing factors include atypical pipe properties, such as extremely low impact toughness and elongation properties across the ERW [electric resistance welded] seam.

There are no findings that indicate internal or external corrosion contributed to the failure.

Their claim about there being no corrosion is important because there has been concern that the abrasive tar sands oil being transported in this pipeline may have contributed to the spill. The pipe was not originally designed to carry that type of fuel.

John Upton at Grist notes that this raises more concerns about the entire Pegasus pipeline, which was installed in the 1940s.
The findings bring into question the integrity of the entire Pegasus pipeline system – and other oil pipelines that crisscross the nation. The Pegasus system, which runs from Illinois to Texas, was laid in 1947 and 1948. The pipeline manufacturer, Ohio-based Youngstown Sheet and Tube Co., is no longer in business but was reportedly one of the leading suppliers of pipelines in the 1940s.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Common Dreams: The Guardian/UK: Quebec’s Lac-Mégantic Oil Train Disaster Not Just Tragedy, But Corporate Crime
Published on Friday, July 12, 2013 by

At the root of the explosion is deregulation and an energy rush driving companies to take ever greater risks
by Martin Lukacs

The town burns following a train derailment and explosion in Lac Megantic, Quebec, early July 6, 2013. The train was hauling about 50,000 barrels of crude from North Dakota’s Bakken shale development to Irving Oil’s 300,000 barrel per day (bpd) plant in Saint John, New Brunswick. (REUTERS/Jean Gauthie)

Five days after a train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, the rural town resembles a scene of desolation. Its downtown is a charred sacrifice zone. 50 people are likely dead, making the train’s toll one of the worst disasters in recent Canadian history.

In the explosion’s aftermath, politicians and media pundits have wagged their finger about the indecency of “politicizing” the event, of grappling with deeper explanations. We can mourn, but not scrutinize. In April, prime minister Stephen Harper even coined an awkward expression – “committing sociology” – to deride the search for root causes about horrifying events, in the wake of an unrelated, alleged bombing attempt.

The recklessness of these corporations is no accident. Under the reign of neoliberalism over the last 30 years, governments in Canada and elsewhere have freed them from environmental, labor and safety standards and oversight, while opening up increasingly more of the public sphere for private profit-seeking.

But to simply call the Lac-Mégantic explosion a “tragedy” and to stop there, is to make it seem like an accident that occurred solely because of human error or technical oversight. It risks missing how we might assign broader culpability. And we owe it to the people who died to understand the reasons why such a disaster occurred, and how it might be prevented in the future.

So here’s my bit of unwelcome sociology: the explosion in Lac-Mégantic is not merely a tragedy. It is a corporate crime scene.

The deeper evidence about this event won’t be found in the train’s black box, or by questioning the one engineer who left the train before it loosened and careened unmanned into the heart of this tiny town. For that you’ll have to look at how Lac-Mégantic was hit by a perfect storm of greed, deregulation and an extreme energy rush driving companies to ever greater gambles with the environment and human life.

The crude carried on the rail-line of US-based company Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway – “fracked” shale oil from North Dakota – would not have passed through Lac-Mégantic five years ago. That’s because it’s part of a boom in dirty, unconventional energy, as fossil fuel companies seek to supplant the depletion of easy oil and gas with new sources – sources that are harder to find, nastier to extract, and more complicated to ship.

Like the Alberta tar sands, or the shale deposits of the United States, these energy sources are so destructive and carbon-intensive that leading scientists have made a straightforward judgment: to avert runaway climate change, they need to be kept in the ground. It’s a sad irony that Quebec is one of the few places to currently ban the “fracking” used to extract the Dakotan oil that devastated Lac-Mégantic.

But fossil fuel companies, spurred by record profits, have deployed a full-spectrum strategy to exploit and carry this oil to market. That’s one of the reasons for a massive, reckless increase in the amount of oil shipped by rail. In 2009, companies shipped a mere 500 carloads of crude oil by rail in Canada; this year, it will be 140,000.

Oil-by-rail has also proved a form of insurance against companies’ worst nightmare: a burgeoning, continent-wide movement to block pipelines from the Alberta tar sands. A group of Canadian businessmen is pursuing the construction of a 2,400-kilometre rail line that could ship 5m barrels of tar sands oil from Alberta to Alaska. Companies are also trucking it and entertaining the idea of barging it down waterways. This is the creed of the new energy era: by any means necessary.

The recklessness of these corporations is no accident. Under the reign of neoliberalism over the last 30 years, governments in Canada and elsewhere have freed them from environmental, labor and safety standards and oversight, while opening up increasingly more of the public sphere for private profit-seeking.

The railway in Canada has hardly been exempt. Up until the mid 1980s, the industry, publicly-run, was under serious regulation. By the time the Thatcherite Progressive Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney was finished with his reforms, it was deregulated, and companies had rewritten the safety rules. That launched an era of cost-cutting, massive lay-offs, and speed-ups on the job, and eventually, the full privatization of companies and rail-lines.

The Liberal government completed the job by turning over what regulation remained to rail companies themselves. A report issued in 2007 by a safety group spelled out the result: Canada’s rail system was a disaster in the waiting.

It’s little wonder, then, that today’s oil and rail barons have cut corners with ease. They’ve been using old rail cars to ship oil, despite the fact that regulators warned the federal government they were unsafe, as far back as 20 years ago. A more recent report by a federal agency reminded the government that the cars could be “subject to damage and catastrophic loss of hazardous materials.” All were ignored. To top it off, the federal government gave the go-ahead last year to Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway to operate with just one engineer aboard their trains.

All of which means it will not suffice to find out if a brake malfunctioned the night of the disaster, or limit ourselves to pointing at the failings of lax regulation. The debate should be about the need for another kind of brake, over the mad pursuit of infinite resources, and the unshackling of reckless corporations, on a finite and fragile planet.

Canada’s political class will not be pleased by the lessons to be drawn. The government needs to get back into the business of heavily regulating corporations – through incentives, through taxes, and through sanctions. And this will involve not just grappling with the dangers of the transport of oil – which will remain unsafe, whether by rail or by pipeline – but starting a rapid transition away from an extreme energy economy entirely. That will not happen as the result of any government inquiry, but a noisy social movement that puts it on the public agenda.

That’s why the most fitting response to Lac-Mégantic actually happened two weeks ago, by US residents 100 miles across the border in Fairfield, Maine. They were arrested blockading a train carrying the same fracked oil from the same oilfields of Northern Dakota, to the same refinery in New Brunswick, Canada. Their message was about ending our reliance on oil, not soon but now. For those who never knew the victims of Lac-Mégantic, there could be no better way to honor them.

Ecowatch: U.S. State Department Doesn’t Know Exact Keystone XL Route

July 9, 2013

By Connor Gibson

Greenpeace activists from Canada, the U.S. and France placed a giant banner reading “Tar Sands: Climate Crime” blocking the giant tar sands mining operation at the Shell Albian Sands outside of Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada onTuesday, September 15, 2009.

The U.S. government doesn’t know exactly where TransCanada wants to lay pipe for the northern section of its Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, according to the results of a 14-month Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request to the U.S. State Department. In its final answer to a FOIA request by Thomas Bachand of the Keystone Mapping Project, the State Department admitted:

Neither Cardno ENTRIX nor TransCanada ever submitted GIS information to the Department of State, nor was either corporation required to do so. The information that you request, if it exists, is therefore neither physically nor constructively under the control of the Department of State and we are therefore unable to comply with your FOIA request.

Yes, you read that right. The U.S. State Department published its draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS)—supposedly an official account of the potential hazards of TransCanada’s proposed pipeline on U.S. waterways, wildlife and other major considerations like global climate change—without knowing exactly where TransCanada wants to dig.

Ongoing Conflicts of Interest in State Department Environmental Assessments

The State Department is already facing legitimate criticism for contracting companies with ties to TransCanada and other oil companies for its environmental impact estimates, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has slammed for being “insufficient.” State looked no further than oil industry contractors to run the draft SEIS—companies like Cardno ENTRIX, which calls TransCanada a “major client,” and ERM Resources, a dues paying member of the American Petroleum Institute which is being investigated by the State Department’s Inspector General for trying to hide its prior consulting for fossil fuel giants like ExxonMobil, BP and Shell. In fact, TransCanada chose ERM Resources to do the Keystone XL SEIS review for the State Department, and one of ERM’s people working on the review was formerly employed by TransCanada.

TransCanada has stacked the deck, wagering American waterways and private property against the promise to profit from continued extraction of dirty tar sands petroleum.

Tar Sands Pipelines Spill

The potential is too high for Keystone XL to leak just like TransCanada’s existing Keystone I pipeline has repeatedly done, or rupture like ExxonMobil’s Pegasus tar sands pipeline in Mayflower, AK, earlier this year, or Enbridge’s tar sands pipeline spill in the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. The southern leg of Keystone XL is already under construction, and the if the cracks, dents and other faults in the “new” pipe are any indication, pollution from oil spills looks inevitable. Beyond being a disaster waiting to happen, Keystone XL guarantees the continued disaster that is tar sands mining, a process that has already poisoned entire regions—and peoples’ communities—in northern Alberta, Canada.

With President Obama’s recently unveiled Climate Action Plan, it would be a limp gesture to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. You’d think with the State Department having its environmental analysis run by oil industry consultants, they’d listen to the oil industry’s own guarantees that Keystone XL would increase demand for tar sands mining. That’s bad news for our climate—something the State Department cannot ignore if they do a reasonable review of the “unprecedented” amount of public comments on its draft SEIS on Keystone XL.

What remains to be seen is if the State Department will be reasonable in the last leg of its review, or if it will continue letting TransCanada and Big Oil control the process to the bitter end.

Visit EcoWatch’s KEYSTONE XL page for more related news on this topic.

Common Dreams: Hundreds Walk to “Heart of Destruction” for Tar Sands Healing.. Naomi Klein, Bill McKibben join activists and First Nations leaders in sacred ‘Tar Sands Healing Walk’

Published on Friday, July 5, 2013 by

– Lauren McCauley, staff writer

(Image via activists, indigenous groups and hundreds of other concerned citizens are heading to the “heart of destruction” in Northern Alberta Friday to conduct a healing ceremony for the land and the people suffering from the toxic and globally devastating expansion of tar sands mining.

Led by First Nations leaders and the Keepers of the Athabasca, the fourth annual “Tar Sands Healing Walk”—taking place July 5 and 6—will lead participants past the toxic lakes of tailings wastewater and massive mining scars along the Athabasca River in Fort McMurray, Alberta as an opportunity to witness first-hand the rampant destruction taking place.

Following a series of workshops scheduled for Friday, over 500 participants from Canada and the US, including notable environmentalists Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein, will take part in the march, walking 8 miles along what is now called “the sacrifice zone.”

The idea is not to “have a protest, but instead to engage in a meaningful ceremonial action to pray for the healing of Mother Earth, which has been so damaged by the tar sands industry,” said Clayton Thomas-Muller, one of the workshop presenters and a coordinator with the Idle No More movement.

“This is a sacred walk because it invites us all to begin a process of healing – healing the land from violence, healing ourselves from our dependence on an economy based on that violence, and healing our deeply imperiled democracy.” -Naomi Klein

And as the organizers wrote on the event website:

This is a different kind of event. Everyone is asked to participate but please leave your protest signs and organizational banners at home. Come and see the impacts of the tar sands and be a part of the healing. First Nations leaders will conduct a traditional healing ceremony on the walk but everyone is encouraged to bring their own spirituality, their own customs, and their own beliefs.

“This is a sacred walk because it invites us all to begin a process of healing – healing the land from violence, healing ourselves from our dependence on an economy based on that violence, and healing our deeply imperiled democracy,” author and activist Naomi Klein told the Guardian ahead of the walk.

The organizers hope the event will draw much-needed attention to both the ecological and community destruction which has occured as a result of, what activist Sarah Harmer refers to as, the “largest unsustainable development project on the planet.”

“The land is sick here. The people are sick from polluted air, water and food,” says Jesse Cardinal, co-organizer from the Keepers of the Athabasca.

The Keepers have also sent invitations, signed by over 7,000 people, calling on Canadian Minister for Natural Resources Joe Oliver and Premiere of Alberta Allison Redford to participate in the ceremony though no response has been given.

Lac-Mégantic, Que. The Canadian Press: Massive explosions strike Quebec town after train carrying oil derails

Click on link for video clips.

Published Saturday, Jul. 06 2013, 8:31 AM EDT
Last updated Saturday, Jul. 06 2013, 12:06 PM EDT

A large swath of a Quebec town was demolished on Saturday after a train derailment sparked several explosions and a blaze that sent spectacular flames shooting metres into the sky. Up to 1,000 people were forced from their homes in Lac-Mégantic, about 250 kilometres east of Montreal. Some people were reported missing, although Quebec provincial police Lieutenant Michel Brunet said it was too early to say if there were casualties.

Flames and billowing smoke could be seen several hours after the derailment, which involved a 73-car train carrying crude oil. Authorities set up perimeters as firefighters battled to douse the persistent blaze which was still going despite a steady drizzle.

Worried residents looked on behind the perimeters amid fears some of their friends and loved ones may have died in bars and in their homes after the early-morning derailment. “We’re told some people are missing but they may just be out of town or on vacation,” Brunet told a news conference. “We’re checking all that, so I can’t tell you at the moment whether there are any victims or people who are injured.”

A Facebook group was quickly set up to help people track down loved ones who couldn’t be reached by phone. A woman offering to locate people at an emergency centre set up at the local high school received hundreds of requests for help.
The mayor of Lac-Mégantic, Colette Roy-Laroche, spoke with a shaky voice as she described the devastation.

“As mayor, when you see the majority of your downtown destroyed like that, you’ll understand we’re asking how we’re going to survive it,” Ms. Roy-Laroche told reporters at the scene. Fire officials said around 30 buildings in the town centre were destroyed, some by the initial blast and others by the subsequent fire. Lac-Mégantic resident Claude Bedard described the scene as “dreadful.”

“It’s terrible,” Bedard said. “We’ve never seen anything like it. The Metro store, Dollarama, everything that was there is gone.”
Some of the train’s 73 cars exploded and the fire could be seen for several kilometres spread to a number of homes. “The flames in the sky were really impressive,” said resident Pierre Lebeau.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper expressed his concern on Twitter. “Thoughts & prayers are with those impacted in Lac Megantic,” he tweeted. “Horrible news.”

A large but undetermined amount of fuel also reportedly spilled into the Chaudiere River. Lac-Mégantic is part of Quebec’s picturesque Eastern Townships region, close to the border with Maine and Vermont. Several neighbouring municipalities, including Sherbrooke and Saint-Georges-de-Beauce, were enlisted to help Lac-Mégantic deal with the disaster.

Emergency services south of the border were also lending a hand. A fleet of fire trucks were deployed from northern Maine, according to a spokesman at the sheriff’s office in Franklin County.

The train belongs to Montreal Maine & Atlantic, which says on its website that it owns more than 800 kilometres of track serving Maine, Vermont, Quebec and New Brunswick.

The train was reportedly heading toward Maine. The cause of the derailment was not immediately known. Environment Quebec spokesman Christian Blanchette said the 73 cars were filled with crude oil and that four were damaged by fire and the explosions.

“Right now, there is big smoke in the air, so we have a mobile laboratory here to monitor the quality of the air,” Blanchette said in an interview. “We also have a spill on the lake and the river that is concerning us. We have advised the local municipalities downstream to be careful if they take their water from the Chaudiere River.”

With reports from Reuters and Les Perreaux, The Globe and Mail

Special thanks to Richard Charter

InsideClimate News: Sickened by Exxon Oil Spill, Victims Face Confusion of Officials and Doctors

One infant, coughing and wheezing, was first treated with asthma medication, then with antibiotics for a severe respiratory infection.

By Lisa Song, InsideClimate News
Jul 3, 2013


Oil spill cleanup in the evacuated zone of Mayflower, Ark. in early April. Health officials did not visit residents outside the 22 evacuated homes, and some say the agency should have taken a more proactive role in the community. Credit: EPA

When Diane Wilson complained of headaches and coughs after an oil pipeline ruptured in Mayflower, Ark., her doctor treated her for allergies.

When Genieve Long came down with nausea, rashes and a fever, her doctor couldn’t provide a diagnosis.

When Ann Jarrell’s 6-month-old grandson began wheezing, a doctor sent him home with asthma medication.

All three families live within a few hundred yards of the March 29 oil spill that sent more than 200,000 gallons of heavy Canadian crude oil through Mayflower. Their experiences offer a snapshot of the confusion surrounding the health impacts of the spill, an uncertainty created by limitations in the science, physicians’ lack of training in environmental health and a communication gap between local health officials and the people they are meant to serve. Like families who lived near two other large oil spills-the June 2010 spill in Salt Lake City, Utah and the July 2010 spill in Michigan’s Kalamazoo River-they are still searching for answers.

Because the three families weren’t among the 22 households in the North Woods subdivision that state officials deemed to be most affected by the spill, they weren’t evacuated or contacted directly by health officials. Instead, they stayed put, enduring foul odors and a host of health problems they believe were caused by the chemicals found in crude oil. Not only were their physicians unable to provide clear answers, but in some cases they also seemed unwilling to consider the spill as a possible culprit.

Long said she had to persuade her doctor to add chemical exposure to her medical history. Jarrell said she provided a printout of the petroleum chemicals detected by air monitoring equipment, but the doctor refused to look at it.

Health experts say it’s virtually impossible to prove that a particular symptom was caused by the chemicals released during an oil spill. Respiratory problems, for instance, can be blamed on springtime allergies, and headaches explained by the stress of living through a spill. Some people are also more sensitive than others, so two residents could be exposed to the same level of chemicals, yet only one will show a response.

Howell Foster, director of the Arkansas Poison Control Center, said he has no doubt that Mayflower residents are experiencing real health problems. But “causation is very, very hard to proveŠThere isn’t a smoking gun. It’s not that simple.”

Some of the tests, such as analyzing benzene levels in urine, are expensive and rarely used by primary care physicians, he said. In addition, most doctors have little training in diagnosing or treating chemical exposures. Physicians who specialize in that field tend to live near industrial hot zones such as the Texas Gulf Coast.

One of the few chemical health experts in Mayflower is Dr. William Mason, a pulmonologist and chief of emergency response at the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH), the agency responsible for public health after the spill. Before joining the ADH, Mason worked in private practice for 20 years and treated many people who were exposed to chemicals in the workplace.

Mason said local doctors can call him any time for advice, but he has received only one call so far. Like Foster, Mason said it’s difficult to connect health problems with the spill. “You want to consider the entire symptomology, because you may overlook something that’s unrelated to the spill. So we trust our physiciansŠ[and] we think they’ve done a really good job.”

Children Still Sick
Long, a 28-year-old college student and a mother of four, lives next to a cove of Lake Conway where the oil eventually collected. Within days of the accident, she said her five-year-old asthmatic son began wheezing and needed a machine to help him breathe at night. Her eight-year-old daughter developed stomach problems.

But when Long asked ExxonMobil-the company responsible for the spill-to help pay for a hotel room, she said her claim was denied because ongoing air monitoring showed that the levels around her house were safe.

“We did not have the funds to move unless we were helped by Exxon,” she said. “So we’ve had to sit here and deal with it.”

Long said the children are still experiencing those symptoms, more than three months after the spill occurred.

When InsideClimate News told the health department about Long’s experiences, Shirley Louie, the deputy state epidemiologist, said she couldn’t comment on a private matter between Long and Exxon. “I don’t know what [Long] asked for. We’re not in any way, shape or form qualified to answer that.”

Since April 2, four days after the spill, the ADH has reported that contaminants in the air were “below levels likely to cause health effects” for the general population.

But as InsideClimate reported last month, some health experts believe the agency’s air quality standards for benzene-a known carcinogen-aren’t strong enough to protect the public. Those experts were also concerned that the agency didn’t issue health warnings for pregnant women and young children, two groups who are considered especially vulnerable to chemical exposure.

Agency spokesman Ed Barham said the staff spent many “long nights and weekends” monitoring air quality and residents’ concerns. They’ve held public meetings, distributed flyers and posted online news releases, he said.

One infant, coughing and wheezing, was first treated with asthma medication, then with antibiotics for a severe respiratory infection.Oil spill cleanup in the evacuated zone of Mayflower, Ark. in early April. Health officials did not visit residents outside the 22 evacuated homes, and some say the agency should have taken a more proactive role in the community. Credit: EPA

Mason, the emergency response chief, said the agency urged people to report their symptoms to the Poison Control Center at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. The call center is staffed 24/7, and he said the ADH publicized the number on paper flyers and at public meetings.

But their efforts haven’t reached everyone.

Long said she saw the poison control number only once, on an Exxon flyer. Because she assumed the number led to a company line, she called the ADH directly to report her family’s health problems. But Long said she was transferred back and forth between the agency and Exxon, “and in the process of being batted around, nothing [got] taken care of.”
Foster, the Poison Control Center director, said his office received 25 spill-related complaints from residents. He advised those with persistent symptoms to contact their primary care doctors.

The data gathered at the poison control center will be shared with the health department, Foster said. The agency “has been as much above board as they can be,” he added.

A Fruitless Search for Help
Ann Jarrell is also frustrated by her experience with the health department.

Jarrell lives with her daughter, Jennifer, and her six-month-old grandson in a house behind the North Woods subdivision, about 350 yards from the oil. The ADH never contacted her after the spill, she said, and she didn’t know that benzene and other dangerous chemicals were in the air until about three weeks after the spill, when she attended a town hall meeting held by the Faulkner County Citizens Advisory Group, a nonprofit that advocates for community health. Alarmed, Jarrell called her daughter and told her to pack her bags.
Jennifer and her son moved to Jennifer’s brother’s house, five miles away. Jarrell, who often travels for work, tries to arrange her schedule so she’s rarely at home.

Jarrell is especially concerned about her grandson, who was three months old at the time of the spill. She said he had always been in good health, but began coughing and wheezing after the accident. One doctor prescribed asthma medication. Another doctor recently diagnosed him with a severe upper respiratory infection and put him on antibiotics.
When Jarrell called the health department to report her family’s problems, she was transferred seven times and finally ended up on an Exxon company line. Jarrell said the receptionist took down her symptoms and promised to report her case to the ADH, but she never heard back.

Jarrell and Long say the ADH should have been more proactive after the spill and conducted door-to-door surveys. The agency is based in the city of Little Rock, about 20 miles from Mayflower.

Barham, the ADH spokesman, said the agency participated in numerous public meetings organized by Exxon, state and federal agencies. But Long said officials from Mayflower and Exxon told her the events were restricted to the 22 evacuated families. Jarrell didn’t learn about the meetings until they were over.

Diane Wilson, who lives near Long, also feels that the health department has let her down. Her house is so close to the oil-stained part of the lake that hundreds of cleanup workers spent weeks working on and around her property.

Wilson wonders why the ADH didn’t bring in out of-town experts who understand chemical exposures. And she wished the agency had reached out to her after the spill.
Louie, the deputy state epidemiologist, acknowledged that the agency didn’t send its employees to individual homes, but said they were “always available for people to contact.”

“Dr. Mason has expressed at many meetings that he was available, and that the health department was available. The poison control center is the best number” for people to call, she said. “We were hoping they would take advantage of it. How much clearer could we have made it?”

Spill Triggers Activism
April Lane, a community health advocate who works with the Faulkner County Citizens Advisory Group, says there’s an “epic communication gap” between the agency and local residents. In the first two weeks after the spill, Lane, a self-described “conservative Republican,” went door to door in and around the North Woods subdivision, conducting air sampling and checking on local residents.

At one house, a woman who mistook Lane for a health department official flung open the door and said, “‘It’s about time!'” Lane said the woman described her family’s problems-wheezing, coughing and diarrhea-and asked if they should evacuate. Lane told her to follow her instincts, and the family left soon after.

“That was just one of 10 or 12 people I met in the first couple of days who were completely surprised they hadn’t been contacted by the health department,” Lane said. “We need the agency to go to the peopleŠIf I went to 30 homes in a week, they can definitely do it. They have the resources and equipment to do it much more quickly.”

The oil spill has turned Long, the mother of four, into an activist. In May, she traveled to Washington, D.C. to speak out against the Keystone XL, a proposed Canada-to-Nebraska pipeline that would carry the same type of oil that spilled Mayflower. She also runs a Facebook page about the spill and is considering changing her college major from office supervision and business management to environmental studies.

Above all, Long wants local officials to investigate the spill’s short-term and long-term impact on human health.

“As far as I see, that should be an Arkansas Department of Health issue,” she said. “What are we supposed to do if we can’t get help from [government] agencies?”

Lori Simmons, chief of environmental epidemiology at the ADH, said the agency will publish a post-spill health report in the next few months. The report will include “health conclusions” based on data such as air and water monitoring results and common health complaints, she said.

The agency has no plans to track residents’ health in the long term. Experts say these types of studies are crucial for a better understanding of how oil spills affect the general public. But because cancer and other possible effects may not appear for years or decades, such studies are expensive and rarely conducted.

Someone who develops a headache and a cough may not develop long-term symptoms, said Foster, the poison control center director. “It doesn’t mean you couldn’t, but these two things aren’t necessarily related.”

After the 2010 oil spill in Michigan’s Kalamazoo River, county officials petitioned the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to conduct a long-term study. But ATSDR denied their request.

The Arkansas health department has asked the Centers for Disease Control, which oversees ATSDR, about conducting a potential long-term study, but Simmons said the CDC told them the Mayflower spill was “not appropriate” for that type of research.

ExxonSpillArkansas.jpg ExxonSpillArkansas.jpg

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Common Dreams: Critics: Obama’s Plan Fails Urgency Climate Crisis Demands
Published on Tuesday, June 25, 2013 by Common Dreams

President should renounce “all of the above” energy strategy and nation’s reliance on dirty fossil fuels, say environmentalists
– Sarah Lazare, staff writer

At a Tuesday George Washington University speech on climate change, President Obama is feeling the heat (Photo: Charles Dharapak/The Associated Press)Environmentalists warn that President Obama’s ‘climate plan’—announced Tuesday in a speech at Georgetown University—does not contain the urgency required by the fast-spiraling crisis of global warming and climate change and that though some aspects were welcome, the overall approach falls well short of what’s needed.

The plan hinges on Obama’s claim that he plans to use his presidential powers to override a Congress under ‘partisan deadlock’ and order the Environmental Protection Agency to impose carbon emissions limits on current and new power plants.

Though many of the large green groups in the US praised the push for tighter regulation on coal plants by the EPA, critics say Obama’s plan is unclear about exactly how strict these regulations will be. As an example, the president’s plan says that the EPA must be “flexible” to states’ needs, a vague directive that critics charge provides rhetorical cover for further inaction.

Furthermore, critics charge that “new” power plant regulations are hardly groundbreaking or far-reaching enough to meet the demands of the crisis. The 2007 Clean Air Act already empowered the EPA to regulate emissions for new facilities, and yet this has done little to reign in power plant emissions, which account for approximately 40 percent of U.S. carbon emissions.

The president’s only new step on this front is to propose regulations for existing plants, but critics worry that an administration that has dragged its feet so far will not make the necessary headway.

“He promised today to do something, but there is zero guarantee that he will follow through,” declared Bill Snape, senior counsel to the Center for Biological Diversity. “In reality there are so many industrial sources that need to be regulated, and the administration has been moving very slowly on all of them. It is wise to not fall prey to the flowery rhetoric. You have to really specifically look at concrete action.”

Friends of the Earth welcomed aspects of the Obama approach but said it was not the “broad, ambitious plan that is needed to combat climate change and extreme weather,” but rather a more tepid “series of actions” joined by flowery rhetoric.

“A sensible climate plan,” said Damon Moglen, climate and energy program director of Friends of the Earth, “would include a renunciation of the president’s “all of the above” energy strategy, which promotes biofuels, so-called clean coal, natural gas and dirty and dangerous nuclear power.”

“In order to address climate change,” he continued, “the president needs to focus on the ambitious development of renewable energy, energy storage and efficiency technologies while setting us on a path which clearly leaves behind the fossil fuel-based energy economy of the 20th century.”

And Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen agreed, saying that though Obama’s speech contained laudable elements there was too much that in the plan that would be “counterproductive.”

The important critique, Weissman said, was this:

Catastrophic climate change poses a near-existential threat to humanity. We need a national mobilization – and indeed a worldwide mobilization – to transform rapidly from our fossil fuel-reliant past and present to a clean energy future. We need a sense of urgency – indeed, emergency – massive investments, tough and specific standards and binding rules. Those elements, sadly, are missing from the president’s plan.

A sensible climate plan would include a renunciation of the president’s “all of the above” energy strategy, which promotes biofuels, so-called clean coal, natural gas and dirty and dangerous nuclear power. In order to address climate change, the president needs to focus on the ambitious development of renewable energy, energy storage and efficiency technologies while setting us on a path which clearly leaves behind the fossil fuel-based energy economy of the 20th century. – See more at:
he broad, ambitious plan that is needed to combat climate change and extreme weather. – See more at:
he broad, ambitious plan that is needed to combat climate change and extreme weather. – See more at:
he broad, ambitious plan that is needed to combat climate change and extreme weather. – See more at:
he broad, ambitious plan that is needed to combat climate change and extreme weather. – See more at:

On the issue of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, Obame remained nearly silent. He declared that the Administration would only move forward if it determines the pipeline is ‘in our national interest’ but did not respond to widespread demands that the project immediately halt.

The president plans to vigorously pursue nuclear energy, he states in his official climate plan. Greenpeace activists have previously slammed an approach that they say embraces unsafe energy while escalating global nuclear buildup. Greenpeace USA’s Executive Director Phil Radford declared at a previous presidential speech:

President Obama’s energy policy has already been riddled with disasters, so it’s astounding that he would encourage even greater dependence on dangerous energy sources like oil drilling and nuclear power at a time when the risks have been made all too clear. For the millions of Americans put at risk by the inherent dangers of nuclear power, or those whose livelihoods have been destroyed by the Gulf oil disaster, more of the same is hardly the path toward ‘Energy Security.’ True leadership in the face of these disasters would mean setting out an energy plan that would move us away from our dependence on fossil fuels and dangerous nuclear power and instead harnessing abundant, safe and clean renewable energy.

President Obama declared that the United States must be a ‘global leader’ and work with the private industry to curb the carbon emissions of ‘developing’ nations. This is despite the fact that the Global North, with only 15 percent of the world’s population, accounts for 70 percent of greenhouse gases, and the U.S. is the second largest contributor to greenhouse gases in the world.

The president announced that he will stop providing federal dollars to build foreign coal-powered plants, unless they are ‘clean’ coal plants, or unless that country has no other viable energy option. Yet, critics charge that the concept of ‘clean’ coal is a myth.

Furthermore, he stated his intentions to expand natural gas use, including the controversial and highly polluting drilling practice known as fracking. Public Citizen’s Energy Program Director Tyson Slocum slammed this move:

His focus on fossil fuel exports – including the explicit promotion of LNG (liquefied natural gas) and his failure to curtail coal exports – threatens to undo the positive elements of the plan. By promoting LNG, the administration is moving full-speed-ahead on fracking, with no mention of how to control fugitive emissions, water contamination and other environmental problems posed by the controversial process.

The president appeared to embrace the role of private industry in curbing environmental disaster, praising large multinationals including WalMart and General Motors for ‘voluntarily’ decreasing their carbon emissions.

While many environmental groups expressed skepticism that the president’s plan will bring about real change, they praised broad, global social movements for pushing the debate even this far.

“We’re happy to see the president finally addressing climate change but the plain truth is that what he’s proposing isn’t big enough, and doesn’t move fast enough, to match the terrifying magnitude of the climate crisis,” said Snape.


Union of Concerned Scientists: UCLA: Science, Democracy, and Community Decisions on Fracking–A Lewis M. Branscomb Forum

Register for the Forum Today!

Register now to secure your spot for the live webcast of our Science, Democracy, and Community Decisions on Fracking Forum on July 25, 2:00 p.m. PDT, at UCLA.
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Dear DeeVon,

We’re less than a month away from our public forum at the University of California, Los Angeles. Don’t forget to register to secure your spot for the live webcast of this popular event!

Science, Democracy, and Community Decisions on Fracking
A Lewis M. Branscomb Forum
Date: Thursday, July 25
Time: 2:00-5:00 p.m. PDT/5:00-8:00 p.m. EDT
Location: UCLA

Register today!

Featured speakers will include: Felicia Marcus, chair of the California Water Resources Control Board; Tom Wilber, author of Under the Surface: Fracking, Fortunes, and the Fate of the Marcellus Shale and Shale Gas Review blog; Jose Bravo, executive director of Just Transition Alliance; and Todd Platts, former U.S. Representative (R-PA). Click here for the full line-up of speakers and program.

This event will be a unique opportunity to join leading thinkers and key stakeholders for a dynamic discussion about the state of the science around hydraulic fracturing, the state and federal policy landscape, and what citizens and policy makers need to know to make informed decisions oil and gas fracking.

We look forward to you joining us and contributing to the conversation!

Andy Rosenberg signature.jpg
Andrew A. Rosenberg, Ph.D.
Director, Center for Science and Democracy
Union of Concerned Scientists

P.S. You can also check out our new video, The Curious Case of Fracking: Questions from the Road, to get a flavor of the types of questions that arise when people are faced with making decisions on fracking in their communities.

Ecowatch: A Call for Unity: An Open Letter From a Texas Landowner to Keystone XL Pipeline Opponents
8 minutes ago Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Michael Bishop

My name is Michael Bishop and I am a landowner in Douglass, TX in Nacogdoches County. I have been fighting TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline for almost five years now and, except for a handful of good Americans, was told there was no interest in eminent domain cases or that I “couldn’t win a case against TransCanada.” For the record, I contacted environmental group after environmental group since the beginning of this fight and I begged for legal assistance from, literally, dozens of attorneys specializing in Constitutional law, eminent domain and civil law, to no avail. In my own state of Texas, I contacted a national nonprofit group that was not only negative about me fighting this company, but was actually rude and unwilling to even discuss the argument I was trying to make in support of litigation against TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline, LLC. I also called a well-known environmental group in Austin that talked a good game, but, in the end, did not deliver and ended up aligning themselves with individuals who brought shame to that group through unscrupulous actions and comments against suffering landowners.

Michael Bishop, a landowner in Douglass, TX.

I called local county commissioners and my county judge who refused to put me on the agenda to bring them a five minute presentation as to why my county should oppose this pipeline and to show them that a legislative tool or existing law gave them the authority to stop construction. I was not allowed to make such a presentation. This is sad, given that this same commissioner’s court gave TransCanada representatives over four hours of “updates” and “information” sessions and actually entered into agreements with this firm. A private citizen, taxpayer and landowner was denied the right to present information to the leaders of the county while representatives of a foreign, privately owned corporation were given the “key to the county.” I contacted multiple state agencies that are mandated by law to protect and represent the public interest in environmental matters only to be told they were unable to assist me and that they had no “legal authority,” although this was, and is, clearly not the case.

What I find further disturbing during my research in the cases I have filed against TransCanada, the Texas Railroad Commission and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is the level of corruption I have uncovered and witnessed in our judiciary and legislative representatives. Sadly, this allegation goes all the way to the White House. During my fight against this illegal foreign land grab, I have seen many good people in Texas and other states destroyed by the actions of TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline, and their dreams (along with mine) for the future of their children and grandchildren shattered by greed, lies, propaganda and bullying tactics of a private, foreign corporation that has the complete and overwhelming support of these corrupt local leaders, politicians and judges. It is time for change.

I am sick of the rhetoric of politicians who speak out of both sides of their mouths: they support stopping climate change while approving this pipeline; they support “property rights” while refusing to support reform of eminent domain laws that violate the Constitutional rights of citizens. I am tired of individuals who “praise and support” our efforts to stop the pipeline but have a selfish agenda that is counter-productive to the on-going fight. Daddy used to tell me that people are basically driven by four things: power, sex, money or all of the above. I have witnessed, firsthand, in my fight against TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline, individuals and groups that are not team players, do not support or have not supported those landowners in need and continue to get their names in the news as “key players” in this fight, when in fact, they do not support, have not supported and have not contributed one original idea, one cent or one original strategy to this serious war we are engaged in. In fact, some of them are actually guilty of plagiarism and giving misleading and misinformed statements to the media. It is time to put away self-serving agendas and concentrate on the few legitimate fights that are currently going on out here in the real world. With the exception of dedicated environmental news outlets and real journalists, the mainstream media has fallen prey to the propaganda machine of TransCanada and the U.S. government information “puppets.” They are not reporting the true stories of landowners who have stood firm and are fighting this illegal pipeline and in spite of multiple lawsuits, Heartland America is not aware of our plight. The media is controlled and has no interest in truth and this is also a sad reality of our current society.

For months I have thought about what to write and the answer is clear: unity. We are all aware of the universal fact that the government, concerned about “eco-terrorists,” have embedded agents in the various groups opposed to the TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline and it is also no secret that there are “double agents” paid by TransCanada to infiltrate these various organizations opposed to the pipeline and provide them with information regarding anti-pipeline activities. I can name at least four major groups that are receiving massive amounts of money to protest and fight TransCanada from private investors or “funders” as well as several nonprofit foundations. What has this funding achieved? Nothing. Julia Trigg Crawford, to my understanding, has waged her legal battle, for the most part, with her own funding. The Texas Rice Farmers group, my own legal battles and other landowners have not been able to raise money to assist in these legal battles, although there are groups out there receiving substantial sums of money. The race for “headlines,” the urgency to make a name for themselves and the struggle for power and recognition have blinded these individuals and groups to the real legal battles that are currently on-going in Texas. This is sad and it must end.

As a U.S. Marine, I learned and learned well the absolute requirement for working as a team and performing as a cohesive unit. It is time for individuals and groups that have separate political agendas and financial motives to reassess their actions, review the work that myself and other landowners have accomplished thus far and join in to help us. Without this support and absolute unity, TransCanada will prevail and the “twin” pipeline that has already been planned and proposed will follow this Southern segment of the KXL. This will become a reality in another year or two and we will then be in double jeopardy.

I urge everyone to consider this letter and to join the few of us that are out here fighting for the future of our children and grandchildren and not vying for political or financial advancement. If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. I hope that this call to unity will give those who are guilty pause for consideration and that they will join us and stop working against us in this honorable and real fight against TransCanada’s Keystone XL Pipeline.

Michael Bishop previously provided EcoWatch with a four-part firsthand account of what happens when a company like TransCanada claims eminent domain on one’s property and begins building a tar sands pipeline—the southern leg of the Keystone XL. Read Part I, Part II, Part III and Part IV.

Visit EcoWatch’s KEYSTONE XL page for more related news on this topic.

CREDO action: Building the new wave of resistance to Keystone XL: Action leader trainings this summer.

Now that we kicked off the Pledge of Resistance with an amazing action on Monday in Chicago, the next step is make this much, much bigger.1

The core of the Pledge, and of our strategy to put enough pressure on President Obama that he has no choice but to reject Keystone XL, will be the threat of hundreds of peaceful civil disobedience actions across the country just like the one in Chicago. These actions will be planned and ready to be deployed if Obama’s State Department recommends that he approve Keystone XL — a decision we expect later in the fall.

It will take hundreds of trained activists across the country to organize these actions, and train tens of thousands of activists to safely take part in peaceful and dignified civil disobedience.

CREDO, Rainforest Action Network and the Other 98% have spent the past few months putting together the resources to train you to become a Pledge of Resistance action leader in your community.

Starting on June 29th, and running through July, we’re putting on weekend-long trainings in 25 cities to train activists to lead Pledge of Resistance actions in their own communities. Here’s the schedule:

June 29-30: San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Boston
July 6-7: DC, Detroit, Portland, Los Angeles
July 13-14: NYC, Cincinnati, Denver, Phoenix, Albuquerque
July 20-21: Tampa, Miami, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Dallas, Houston
July 27-28: Raleigh, Atlanta, Des Moines, Kansas City, Salt Lake City, Tulsa

To make the Pledge of Resistance a game-changer in our fight against Keystone XL, we need hundreds of people like you, ready to take the next step in their activism. Click here to find your nearest training and RSVP.

These trainings are free. No experience is required. We have developed an amazing curriculum which will provide you with the resources and support you need to pull this off – even if you’ve never done anything like it before. But leading a local pledge of resistance action will be a significant commitment over the next few months. Here’s what we ask if you want to sign up for an Action Leader training:

Come to both days of the training. (If you don’t live in the city, that means you’ll need to find a place to stay overnight.)
Bring a friend. (There will be a lot to learn, so it’ll help to have someone else there to help you remember.)
Be firmly committed to principles of non-violence.
Have a serious intention to lead an action where you live. (That requires working with a training coach to develop an action blueprint from a list of local targets, assigning roles on your team, training activists to take action, then being ready for a decision on KXL.)

Not everyone will be able to lead a local action. For example if you live in a major city, there may be larger events planned, and we’d be relying on you to play a major planning and support role. In some places there may be multiple local leaders, and we’ll have you team up. Regardless, to pull this off, and have any chance of defeating Keystone XL, we need hundreds of highly trained climate organizers in cities and towns all over the country.

Whether you are now a seasoned organizer or an activist looking to get involved, this training will give you everything you need to be a leader in the fight against Keystone XL. You’ll learn all the tools you need to plan a civil disobedience action where you live, build an action team, and train your fellow activists to safely engage in peaceful and dignified civil disobedience. And you’ll be empowered with skills that you can continue to use to advocate for climate action beyond the Keystone XL fight.

This won’t be a game-changer unless people are ready to commit to it. If you are a ready to step up and be a leader in the Keystone XL Pledge of Resistance, click here to find your nearest training and RSVP.

Thanks for fighting Keystone XL.

Elijah Zarlin, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets

If you can’t attend a training or aren’t ready to make a commitment, the best way you can support this effort right now is by donating to fund this massive organizing effort to stop Keystone XL.

1. “22 Arrested in New Wave of Resistance to Keystone XL Pipeline

Common Dreams via Tar Sands Blockade: Dozens Storm Pipeline Regulator PHMSA Event, Demanding Stricter Safety Regulations for Tar Sands Bitumen

And the protests grow against the Keystone XL.…………..DV

June 19, 2013
1:54 PM

CONTACT: Tar Sands Blockade

RICHARDSON, TX – June 19 – Dozens of concerned community members and activists from the Texas Action Coalition for the Environment and Tar Sands Blockade have stormed the lobby at the Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHMSA) Pipeline Safety Public Awareness Workshop, being held at the Hyatt Regency in Richardson. The protesters staged a tar sands spill and are carrying banners and signs to say that tar sands aren’t being regulated and must be stopped. Activists are expected to stay outside in demonstration until dusk, when they will hold lighted billboards reading “PHMSA: No Tar Sands Pipelines” and “Water > Oil”.
Early this morning many from across the Keystone XL pipeline route attended the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) “Pipeline Safety Public Awareness Workshop”, held inside the Richardson Hyatt Regency Hotel. Texas ACE and TSB are airing their grievances directly to regulators, asking pertinent questions during panel Q&A sessions in order to draw out a complete record of the PHMSA assessment of its awareness efforts.

The sad truth is that PHMSA fails to properly regulate diluted tar sands bitumen – the deadly substance which has leaked in the hundreds of thousands of gallons from shoddily maintained pipelines regulated by PHMSA, poisoning communities like Mayflower, Arkansas and Kalamazoo, Michigan. In fact, Senator Edward Markey recently revealed that while PHMSA issued a Corrective Action Order against Exxon Mobil for the Pegasus tar sands pipeline, they allowed Exxon to use a disaster response plan that had not yet been approved without facing any consequences. Exxon did not detect and respond to the spill in Mayflower, Arkansas within the required time limit of the formally approved safety plan. This is just one of many examples of industry and government collusion and oversight to keep the high risk and toxicity of tar sands out of the eyes and mind of the public.

Of particular concern is the fact that tar sands (diluted bitumen or “dilbit”) is a different chemical composition than crude oil, and yet it is only classified as such when it benefits the industry bottom line. On the basis that tar sands dilbit is “synthetic crude” and not crude oil, the transport of tar sands through pipelines in the US is exempt from payments into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. Otherwise, regulators claim that tar sands bitumen is a type of crude oil. Tar sands are far more difficult and costly to clean up and spills are more toxic to water, wildlife and affected persons as a result of the differences in composition. “Tar sands dilbit needs to be recognized and classified as different from crude oil, for the sake of public awareness and pipeline safety,” says Aly Tharp, one of the organizers of today’s protest.

Tar Sands Blockade is a coalition of Texas and Oklahoma landowners and organizers using nonviolent direct action to physically stop the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

Common Dreams: Nobel Laureates to Obama: No Keystone XL!
Published on Wednesday, June 19, 2013

‘Risks of tar sands oil and the threats of dangerous climate change have only become clearer’
– Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

A group of Nobel Peace laureates called for the immediate rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline in a letter sent to President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry Tuesday.


Archbishop Desmond Tutu at the Copenhagen climate change conference. (Attila Kisbenedek/AFP/Getty Images) “We are writing to urge you to once and for all reject the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline,” begins the letter penned by 10 Nobel Peace Prize winners—including Mairead Maguire, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Betty Williams, and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel.

“Since we first wrote you, in September of 2011, the risks of tar sands oil and the threats of dangerous climate change have only become clearer,” the laureates write.

They continue:

Tragic extreme weather events, including hurricanes, drought and forest fires in your own country, have devastated hundreds of millions of people around the globe. Recent tar sands oil spills in Kalamazoo, MI and Mayflower, AR, have served as a harsh reminder that shipping the world’s dirtiest oil will never likely be safe enough for human health and the environment.

Alberta’s oil sands are Canada’s fastest growing source of greenhouse gas pollution and emissions are projected to double over the next seven years. […]

As leaders who have spoken out strongly on these issues, we urge you, once again, to be on the right side of history and send a clear message that you are serious about moving beyond dirty oil. [read the full text below]

The letter follows an earlier letter sent in 2011 also calling for a rejection of Keystone XL.

Regarding the letter, Danielle Droitsch writes for the NRDC Switchboard Blog:

When the great moral leaders of our time, including Archbishop Tutu, call for a rejection of tar sands in the face of catastrophic climate change, it is time for the U.S. to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, a linchpin enabling the tripling of expansion of this dirty oil.

“The rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline is a critical step towards limiting the expansion of the Canadian oil sands—Canada’s fastest growing source of greenhouse gas pollution,” said the Nobel Women’s Initiative Tuesday, adding, “the oil sands also have devastating impacts on local land, water, air, and communities.”

The letter follows alarming news last month that the world hit a “sobering milestone” of 400 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 in the atmosphere—a first in human history—far surpassing the 350 ppm limit considered safe by climate experts.

If Keystone XL is approved, Canada will be sure to dig up and churn out all of its toxic tar sands—a move that climate experts such as Bill McKibben and James Hansen have repeatedly warned will send CO2 levels far through the roof, spelling game over for the climate.

However, while promising to “respond to the threat of climate change,” both Obama and Kerry have remained vague over whether or not they will approve construction of the northern leg of the pipeline.

Read the full letter below:

President Barack Obama
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500

June 17, 2013

Dear President Obama and Secretary Kerry,

We are writing to urge you to once and for all reject the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline.

Like millions of others, we were buoyed by words in the President’s second inaugural address: “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.” Mr. President and Secretary Kerry, this is an opportunity to begin to fulfill that promise. While there is no one policy or action that will avoid dangerous climate change, saying ‘no’ to the Keystone XL pipeline is a critical step in the right direction. Now is the time for unwavering leadership.

Climate change threatens all of us, but it is the world’s most vulnerable who are already paying for developed countries’ failure to act with their lives and livelihoods. This will only become more tragic as impacts become worse and conflicts are exacerbated as precious natural resources, like water and food, become more and more scarce. Inaction will cost hundreds of millions of lives – and the death toll will only continue to rise.

Since we first wrote you, in September of 2011, the risks of tar sands oil and the threats of dangerous climate change have only become clearer. Tragic extreme weather events, including hurricanes, drought and forest fires in your own country, have devastated hundreds of millions of people around the globe. Recent tar sands oil spills in Kalamazoo, MI and Mayflower, AR, have served as a harsh reminder that shipping the world’s dirtiest oil will never likely be safe enough for human health and the environment.

Alberta’s oil sands are Canada’s fastest growing source of greenhouse gas pollution and emissions are projected to double over the next seven years. The International Energy Agency, among many other respected bodies, has found that in order to prevent catastrophic global warming of over two degrees centigrade we must leave two thirds of fossil fuels in the ground. In contrast, the expansion of the Alberta oil sands, as projected, is consistent with the pathway to global warming of six degrees centigrade. The Keystone XL pipeline is critical to this rate of tar sands growth, as without it the industry is unlikely to be able to fulfill its plans of tripling oil sands production.

We recognize the extreme pressure being put on you by industry and the governments of Canada and Alberta, and note this pressure represents the interest of the largest, wealthiest corporation—and not the average Canadian. We applaud the Government of British Columbia for standing up to this pressure and calling for the rejection of another tar sands pipeline, the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline. On the other hand, acting against broad public opinion, the Canadian Government has abandoned its commitments both under the United Nations Kyoto Protocol and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. The Canadian Government has also taken extreme measures domestically to gut environmental legislation and muzzle scientists in order to fast track tar sands pipeline development.

We also recognize the pressure from forces in your own country. The Keystone XL pipeline will not benefit or improve the lives of Americans, but nevertheless we understand that the politics of action on climate are not easy. We believe you are the kind of leaders who can stand up to those interests when necessary, to do what is right for the world and for future generations.

You have both been clear that it is time for the United States to step up and do its fair share to fight the climate crises. We acknowledge the work and investment that is happening in North America to increase energy efficiency and clean energy, but unless we dramatically accelerate such efforts and move more quickly away from the use of fossil fuels – our other efforts will be rendered practically irrelevant.

Our shared climate cannot afford the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline.

As leaders who have spoken out strongly on these issues, we urge you, once again, to be on the right side of history and send a clear message that you are serious about moving beyond dirty oil.

Yours sincerely,

Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate (1976) — Ireland

Betty Williams, Nobel Peace Laureate (1976) — Ireland

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Laureate (1984) — South Africa

Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Nobel Peace Laureate (1980) — Argentina

Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Nobel Peace Laureate (1992) — Guatemala

José Ramos Horta, Nobel Peace Laureate (1996) — East Timor

Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Laureate (1997) — USA

Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Laureate (2003) — Iran

Tawakkol Karman, Nobel Peace Laureate (2011) — Yemen

Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Peace Laureate (2011) — Liberia
– See more at:…

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Ecowatch: Pipeline Failures Plague Oil Companies, Erode Public Trust

Wednesday June 19, 2012

By Emily Saari

“All pipelines leak, all markets peak” – a slogan of the Tar Sands Blockade. Creative Commons: Elizabeth Brossa, 2012

Pipeline safety is growing more difficult to prove, as oil companies struggle with failing infrastructure and persistent pollution issues from spills that should have been cleaned up long ago. News of pipeline failures are eroding public trust in oil companies to quickly and effectively control toxic spills, much less prevent them in the first place. These events add gravity to President Obama’s pending decision to allow Canadian company TransCanada to build a pipeline across the U.S. to carry highly corrosive tar sands oil from Montana to the Gulf of Mexico.

A huge pipeline failure in Zama City, Canada, on June 1, spilled 2.5 million gallons of toxic tar sands wastewater into the environment, in what some are calling the biggest wastewater spill in recent North American history. Alberta’s Energy Resources Conservation Board, however, waited 11 days to issue a public statement reporting the spill’s occurrence, raising doubts about the adequacy of government regulation and transparency.

Locals believe that the wastewater leak might have originated even earlier than June. Dene Tha’ Councilman Sidney Chambaud told The Canadian Press:
There are indications that the spill occurred earlier, during the winter season, but due to ice and snow it wasn’t discovered.

The spill occurred near the territory of the Dene Tha’ First Nation, where the community lives, farms, fishes and hunts. Yet Houston-based Apache Corp. said in its press release that the spill posed “no risk to the public.” This contradicts a statement by Dene Tha’ Chief James Ahnassay reporting that the spill “seriously affected harvesting areas.”

The ExxonMobil pipeline spill in Arkansas on March 29 sent 84,000 gallons of heavy tar sands oil through a suburban community and continues to pollute waterways and contaminate the neighborhood months later, keeping many of the evacuated residents from returning to their homes.

On June 14, the state of Arkansas and the federal Department of Justice filed suit against ExxonMobil on the grounds that Exxon violated state and federal clean water and air laws, asserting that the company must do more to pay for clean-up costs.

This follows a class-action lawsuit filed by Arkansas residents in April demanding $5 million in damages from Exxon.

Exxon’s history of pipeline failures doesn’t bode well for future pipelines. Exxon was fined $1.7 million for a spill in 2011 that sent 62,000 gallons of oil into the Yellowstone River. In July 2010, a six-foot break in an Exxon pipeline near the Kalamazoo River in Michigan resulted in the largest on-land oil spill, and one of the costliest, in U.S. history.

In Texas, newly laid pipes that could one day be part of the Keystone XL are being dug up and replaced for structural damage. Photographs from the sites by grassroots organization Bold Nebraska show pieces of pipe that have been spray-painted with the word “dent” and flags along the pipeline route that say “anomaly” and “weld.”

Landowners watching TransCanada retrace its steps to excavate and replace brand new pieces of pipe are increasingly suspicious of the integrity of the pipelines: “that it is not a matter of if, but a matter of when this line will leak.”

Michael Bishop, landowner in east Texas whose property is to be dug up once again to replace pieces of Keystone XL pipeline, said:
When the new segments are welded up, how can the public be assured that the work will not be a repeat of the shoddy, prior performance that has brought them back to our properties? If we were concerned about leaking before construction began, how can we have confidence in TransCanada at this point?

Landowners Against TransCanada, an organization formed to provide assistance to landowners in the U.S. to legally fight the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline, launched a petition telling the Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to perform its legal duties to protect human health and the environment, and immediately investigate the pipeline anomalies and stop further construction of the southern segment of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Landowners watch as their land is dug up for a second time, growing wary of TransCanada’s integrity. Creative Commons: Public Citizen, 2013

Tar sands oil spilled in Mayflower, AR into a suburban backyard. Source:

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Common Dreams: Non-Violent Keystone XL Activists = ‘Eco-Terrorists,’ According to TransCanada Documents

Published on Friday, June 14, 2013

Vague language also ensnares journalists, researchers and academics
by Steve Horn

Documents recently obtained by Bold Nebraska show that TransCanada – owner of the hotly-contested Keystone XL (KXL) tar sands pipeline – has colluded with an FBI/DHS Fusion Center in Nebraska, labeling non-violent activists as possible candidates for “terrorism” charges and other serious criminal charges.

Further, the language in some of the documents is so vague that it could also ensnare journalists, researchers and academics, as well.

TransCanada also built a roster of names and photos of specific individuals involved in organizing against the pipeline, including’s Rae Breaux, Rainforest Action Network’s Scott Parkin and Tar Sands Blockade’s Ron Seifert. Further, every activist ever arrested protesting the pipeline’s southern half is listed by name with their respective photo shown, along with the date of arrest.

It’s PSYOPs-gate and “fracktivists” as “an insurgency” all over again, but this time it’s another central battleground that’s in play: the northern half of KXL, a proposed border-crossing pipeline whose final fate lies in the hands of President Barack Obama.

The southern half of the pipeline was approved by the Obama Admin. via a March 2013 Executive Order. Together, the two pipeline halves would pump diluted bitumen (“dilbit”) south from the Alberta tar sands toward Port Arthur, TX, where it will be refined and shipped to the global export market.

Activists across North America have put up a formidable fight against both halves of the pipeline, ranging from the summer 2011 Tar Sands Action to the ongoing Tar Sands Blockade. Apparently, TransCanada has followed the action closely, given the level of detail in the documents.
Another Piece of the Puzzle
Unhappy with the protest efforts that would ultimately hurt their bottom-line profits, TransCanada has already filed a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) against Tar Sands Blockade, which was eventually settled out of court in Jan. 2013. That was just one small piece of the repressive puzzle, though it sent a reverberating message to eco-activists: they’re being watched.

In May 2013, Hot Springs School District in South Dakota held a mock bomb drill, with the mock “domestic terrorists” none other than anti-Keystone XL activists.

“The Hot Springs School District practiced a lockdown procedure after pretending to receive a letter from a group that wrote ‘things dear to everyone will be destroyed unless continuation of the Keystone pipeline and uranium mining is stopped immediately,” explained the Rapid City Journal. “As part of the drill, the district’s 800 students locked classroom doors, pulled down window shades and remained quiet.”

This latest revelation, then, is a continuation of the troubling trend profiled in investigative journalist Will Potter’s book “Green Is the New Red.” That is, eco-activists are increasingly being treated as domestic eco-terrorists both by corporations and by law enforcement.
TransCanada Docs: “Attacking Critical Infrastructure” = “Terrorism”

The documents demonstrate a clear fishing expedition by TransCanada. For example, TransCanada’s PowerPoint presentation from Dec. 2012 on corporate security allege that Bold Nebraska had “suspicious vehicles/photography” outside of its Omaha office.

That same presentation also says TransCanada has received “aggressive/abusive email and voicemail,” vaguely citing an incident in which someone said the words “blow up,” with no additional context offered. It also states the Tar Sands Blockade is “well-funded,” an ironic statement about a shoe-string operation coming from one of the richest and most powerful industries in human history.

Another portion of TransCanada’s PowerPoint presentation discusses the various criminal and anti-terrorism statutes that could be deployed to deter grassroots efforts to stop KXL. The charge options TransCanada presented included criminal trespass, criminal conspiracy, and most prominently and alarmingly: federal and state anti-terrorism statutes.
Journalism Could be Terrorism/Criminal According to FBI/DHS Fusion Center Presentation

An April 2013 presentation given by John McDermott – a Crime Analyst at the Nebraska Information Analysis Center (NIAC), the name of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funded Nebraska-based Fusion Center – details all of the various “suspicious activities” that could allegedly prove a “domestic terrorism” plot in-the-make.

NAIC says its mission is to “[c]ollect, evaluate, analyze, and disseminate information and intelligence data regarding criminal and terrorist activity to federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies, other Fusion Centers and to the public and private entities as appropriate.”

Among the “observed behaviors and incidents reasonably indicative of preoperations planning related to terrorism or other criminal activity” is “photography, observation, or surveillance of facilities, buildings, or critical infrastructure and key resources.” A slippery slope, to say the least, which could ensnare journalists and photo-journalists out in the field doing their First Amendment-protected work.

Another so-called “suspicious activity” that could easily ensnare journalists, researchers and academics: “Eliciting information beyond curiosity about a facility’s or building’s purpose, operations, or security.”

Melissa Troutman and Joshua Pribanic – producers of the documentary film “Triple Divide” and co-editors of the investigative journalism website Public Herald – are an important case in point. While in the Tioga State Forest (public land) filming a Seneca Resources fracking site in Troy, Pennsylvania, they were detained by a Seneca contractor and later labeled possible “eco-terrorists.”

“In discussions between the Seneca Resources and Chief Caldwell, we were made out to be considered ‘eco-terrorists’ who attempted to trespass and potentially vandalize Seneca’s drill sites, even though the audio recording of this incident is clear that we identified ourselves as investigative journalists in conversation with the second truck driver,” they explained in a post about the encounter, which can also be heard in their film.

“We were exercising a constitutional right as members of the free press to document and record events of interest to the public on public property when stripped of that right by contractors of Seneca.”

Activists protesting against the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) during its April 2013 meeting in Arizona were also labeled as possible “domestic terrorists” by the Arizona FBI/DHS Fusion Center, as detailed in a recent investigation by the Center for Media and Democracy.
“Not Just Empty Rhetoric”

It’d be easy to write off TransCanada and law enforcement’s antics as absurd. Will Potter, in an article about the documents, warned against such a mentality.

“This isn’t empty rhetoric,” he wrote. “In Texas, a terrorism investigation entrapped activists for using similar civil disobedience tactics. And as I reported recently for VICE, Oregon considered legislation to criminalize tree sits. TransCanada has been using similar tactics in [Canada] as well.”

And this latest incident is merely the icing on the cake of the recent explosive findings by Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian about the National Security Agency’s (NSA) spying on the communcations records of every U.S. citizen.

“Many terrorism investigations (and a great many convictions) are politically contrived to suit the ends of corporations, offering a stark reminder of how the expansion of executive power — whether in the context of dragnet NSA surveillance, or the FBI treating civil disobedience as terrorism — poses a threat to democracy,” Shahid Buttar, Executive Director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee told DeSmogBlog.
© 2013

Los Angeles Times: A New Mexico county’s fracking ban is all about the water,0,4631146.story

In acting to protect what’s important to them, the 5,000 residents of poor Mora County make it the nation’s first to ban hydraulic fracturing for oil.

By Julie Cart,
May 28, 2013, 7:36 p.m.
OCATE, N.M. – Sitting in the tidy living room of the home they built themselves, Sandra and Roger Alcon inventory what they see as the bounty of their lives: freedom, family, community, land, animals Š and water.

“We’ve lived off the land for five generations,” said Roger Alcon, 63, looking out on a northern New Mexico landscape of high mesas, ponderosa pines and black Angus cattle. “We have what we need. We’ve been very happy, living in peace.” Wells are the Alcons’ only source of water. The same is true for everyone else in Mora County, which is why last month this poor, conservative ranching region of energy-rich New Mexico became the first county in the nation to pass an ordinance banning hydraulic fracturing, the controversial oil and gas extraction technique known as “fracking” that has compromised water quantity and quality in communities around the country. “I don’t want to destroy our water,” Alcon said. “You can’t drink oil.”

In embracing the ban, landowners turned their back on potentially lucrative royalty payments from drilling on their property and joined in a groundswell of civic opposition to fracking that is rolling west from Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania in the gas-rich Marcellus shale formation. Pittsburgh became the first U.S. city to outlaw fracking in November 2010 after it came to light that an energy company held a lease to drill under a beloved city cemetery.

Since then, more than a dozen cities in the East have passed similar ordinances. The movement leapfrogged west last summer when the town of Las Vegas, N.M., took up the cause, calling for a halt to fracking until adequate regulations protecting public health are adopted. It has now reached California, where communities are considering similar bans. Culver City – home to the nation’s largest urban oil field – is drafting oil and gas regulations that call for a moratorium on fracking. Citizen groups in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara are preparing their own community rights ballot measures aimed at outlawing the procedure.

Hydraulic fracturing involves injecting a high-pressure mix of water, sand and chemicals deep underground to fracture rock formations, releasing oil and gas that is hard to reach with conventional drilling methods. A blizzard of applications to sink wells using fracking is spurring a nationwide energy rush sometimes called the “shale gale.”

Among the leading concerns of opponents is the absence of any federal law requiring companies to fully identify the chemicals in their fracking fluids. Such formulas are considered by the industry to be a trade secret. Community-based anti-fracking campaigns – citing public health issues – call for complete disclosure of injection fluids. Many New Mexico counties welcome oil and gas production, an industry that adds to the tax base and employment rolls. But in sparsely populated Mora County, where 67% of the 5,000 residents are Spanish-speaking, people cherish their culture and way of life.

Sandra Alcon said her neighbors don’t care about mineral rights or oil money. They are angry about the way energy companies’ “land men” treated them. Residents here are seen as easy marks for hustlers offering little compensation for oil and water rights, she said. “They know we have a lot of elderly and rural people; some don’t speak English,” she said. “They don’t know that some of us went to college and some of us have the Internet. “I may look stupid, but I’m not. I know what they are doing.” Mora County, using its authority to regulate commercial activity, specifically barred corporations from fracking. The ordinance also established that citizens have a right to a safe and clean environment.

County Commission Chairman John Olivas said the ordinance is not a referendum on oil and gas. Rather, he said, it “is all about water,” estimating that 95% of the county’s residents support the ban, although some argue that the jobs and income that accompany drilling would help the depressed area. Olivas, a hunting and fishing guide, said he grew up watching his parents work in the uranium mines of eastern New Mexico. When the mines played out, towns shriveled up. Chasing that boom-and-bust economy is not worth despoiling an environment that remains remarkably untouched and provides a sustainable living for most people here, he said.

“We are one of the poorest counties in the nation, yes, but we are money-poor, we are not asset-poor,” Olivas said. “We’ve got land, we’ve got agriculture, we’ve got our heritage and we’ve got our culture.” The California community closest to adopting an anti-fracking ordinance is Culver City, which includes a portion of the 1,000-acre Inglewood Oil Field. More than 1 million people live within five miles of the field, where some 1,600 wells have been drilled since 1925.

The City Council is considering a fracking moratorium, even though only 10% of the field is within the city limits. The bulk of the wells are in unincorporated Los Angeles County. City officials and residents say they are concerned about air and water quality, as well as about earthquakes being triggered by drilling at 8,000 to 10,000 feet – the depths where the untapped oil is found.

Low-magnitude earthquakes have been associated with fracking, but Ed Memi, a spokesman for PXP, which operates in the Inglewood Field, called suggestions that high-pressure drilling causes earthquakes “hysterical accusations.”
“There is no evidence that hydraulic fracturing has caused felt seismic activity anywhere in California,” Memi said. “The practice of hydraulic fracturing has been subjected to dozens of studies in recent years, and the fundamental safety of the technology is well understood by scientists, engineers, regulators and other technical experts.”
But Meghan Sahli-Wells, Culver City’s vice mayor, said the city needs to see more study of fracking’s impact before it could be allowed.

“I grew up in L.A. All my life I’ve heard about air-quality problems, earthquakes and water issues,” Sahli-Wells said. “It just so happens that fracking really hits on the three major challenges of this area. Frankly, I’ve been waiting for people to wake up and say, ‘We are fracking on a fault line? Is this really in our interests?'”

If Culver City moves forward with a moratorium, it could take months to complete, she said.
Fracking is unregulated in California, and no accurate figures exist detailing how many of the state’s wells are completed using the technique.

A number of anti-fracking bills are pending before the state Assembly, and statewide regulations are being finalized by the state Department of Conservation.

Sahli-Wells endorses legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell (D-Culver City) that calls for a moratorium on fracking in California until a comprehensive six-year study can be undertaken.
“Look before you leap” legislation is pending in other states.

On a recent day back in Mora County, Roger Alcon drove his ranch with his herding dog, Pepper, at his side. He said the region’s aquifer has been depleted by oil and gas operations in the region. He sees no reason to hasten the water decline.
Alcon pointed out the truck window toward the snowcapped Sangre de Cristo mountains.
“We have what we need,” he said. “To me, the fresh air and the land, and water. It’s better than money.”

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Mother Jones: Grassroots Greens Challenge Environmental Defense Fund on Fracking
→ Climate Change, Corporations, Energy, Environment, Regulatory Affairs

—By Kate Sheppard
| Wed May. 22, 2013 1:49 PM PDT


Michael G McKinne/

A coalition of grassroots environmental groups—plus a few professors and celebrities—issued a public message to the Environmental Defense Fund on Wednesday: You don’t speak for us on fracking.

The coalition of 67 groups released an open letter to EDF President Fred Krupp criticizing his organization for signing on as a “strategic partner” in the Center for Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD), a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit that bills itself as an “unprecedented, collaborative effort of environmental organizations, philanthropic foundations, energy companies and other stakeholders committed to safe, environmentally responsible shale resource development.” CSSD’s partners include Chevron, CONSOL Energy, and Shell. The partners have been working together on voluntary industry standards for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a controversial process used to extract natural gas from shale rock.

The groups that signed the letter included national organizations such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, as well as regional environmental outfits such as the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition and Catskills Citizens for Clean Energy. Actors Mark Ruffalo and Debra Winger also signed the document. They wrote:

The very use of the word sustainable in the name is misleading, because there is nothing sustainable about shale oil or shale gas. These are fossil fuels, and their extraction and consumption will inevitably degrade our environment and contribute to climate change. Hydraulic fracturing, the method used to extract them, will permanently remove huge quantities of water from the hydrological cycle, pollute the air, contaminate drinking water, and release high levels of methane into the atmosphere. It should be eminently clear to everyone that an economy based on fossil fuels is unsustainable.

Gail Pressberg, a senior program director with the Civil Society Institute, criticized EDF for a “willingness to be coopted” by industry in a call with reporters about the letter. “For too long, nationally-oriented groups have tried to call the shots on fracking,” she said. “These local people can and should be allowed to speak for themselves.”

EDF’s Krupp responded with his own letter on Wednesday, defending the group’s participation in CSSD and its record of “fighting for tough regulations and strong enforcement” on natural gas extraction:

Let’s be clear about where EDF stands. It’s not our job to support fracking or to be boosters for industry. That is not what we do. In fact, we regularly clash with industry lobbyists who seek to gut legislation protecting the public, and we have intervened in court on behalf of local communities and their right to exercise traditional zoning powers. We have made it clear that there are places where fracking should never be permitted. But if fracking is going to take place anywhere in the U.S.—and clearly it is—then we need to do everything in our power to protect the people living nearby. That includes improving industry performance in every way possible. In our view, CSSD, a coalition that includes environmental organizations, philanthropic foundations, energy companies and other stakeholders, is one way to do that.

Make no mistake: CSSD is not and never will be a substitute for effective regulation. Stronger state and federal rules, along with strong enforcement, are absolutely necessary. However, voluntary efforts can build momentum toward regulatory frameworks.

I’ve covered the sparring between EDF and grassroots groups over gas before. At the heart of it is that many of the grassroots groups want there to be no fracking, period. EDF’s position is that fracking is “never going to be without impact, never going to be risk free,” as EDF Vice President Eric Pooley described it to me, “but we’re also mindful that it’s happening all over the country.” Voluntary standards, Pooley said, are not the ultimate goal—but they can help reduce impacts in communities that already have drilling, and lay the groundwork for actual regulations. “How could we not, in good consciousness, want to engage if we see an opportunity to reduce impacts in communities?” he said.

For what it’s worth, both enviros and industry folks have berated CSSD for being too accommodating of the other side.

San Francisco Chronicle: Keystone pipeline foes set for protests

I agree that we should all do what we can to express our opposition to this insanity. DV protests

Michael Macor, The Chronicle
An El Sobrante man named Rick participates in civil disobedience training Saturday in Richmond.

By Joe Garofoli
May 22, 2013

Climate-change activists aren’t waiting to see what President Obama will decide on the most controversial environmental issue of his tenure – the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would carry petroleum extracted from the Canadian tar sands 1,700 miles across the U.S. to the Gulf of Mexico.

To call attention to the project and what they consider the government’s slow political response to climate change, tens of thousands of activists plan to get arrested in nonviolent civil disobedience across the nation in the coming weeks.

In small groups such as one that gathered in a Richmond storefront office last weekend, they’ve begun training for demonstrations aimed at key players in the Keystone decision.

They will begin at a Facebook shareholders meeting next month in Millbrae. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg started a political action committee that is supporting senators who favor the pipeline.
A larger protest will follow Aug. 3 in Richmond near the Chevron refinery.

“Things are getting worse,” said LaVerne Woodrow, a 51-year-old registered nurse who drove from Arroyo Seco (Monterey County) with her 26-year-old son to participate in the Richmond training Saturday.

Woodrow participated in various social justice marches when she was younger, but she has never been arrested at one before.

“I am a law-abiding citizen. Worst I ever had was a parking ticket,” Woodrow said. “But I live out in the country. I see the damage that’s being done to our environment.”

Promising action

More than 59,000 people have signed an online pledge to express their disgust and engage in what San Francisco-based pledge organizers Credo Action calls “serious, dignified, peaceful civil disobedience that could get you arrested.”

As the State Department analyzes the Keystone project before a final decision, expected this year, activists are corralling their energy into campaigns with names like “Summer Heat,” featuring street demonstrations the last two weeks of July, typically among the hottest days of the year.

Another group of environmental activists is plotting a campaign called “Fearless Summer” to protest various types of natural-resource extraction – from fracking to mountaintop removal to extract minerals.

Supporters of the Keystone pipeline say the project would bring much-needed jobs to the United States, where 11.7 million people are unemployed, according to the Labor Department. But while construction of the pipeline is estimated to create 42,100 temporary jobs, a State Department study projected it would add only 35 permanent jobs, mostly for pipeline inspection and maintenance.

Team in training

The four-hour Richmond tutorial was among the first of more than 1,000 training sessions that eventually will take place nationally, organizers say.

On Saturday, activists gathered in the Richmond storefront amid posters of past direct actions: “Against the Patriot Act,” “Wells Fargo: Reset Mortgages Now!” and “We are the port authority!” – from an Occupy demonstration at the Port of Oakland.

Many of the 15 people who attended the training had participated in civil disobedience before. Uniformly liberal, they needed few primers on climate change or why the pipeline was a bad idea, from their perspective.

“Why are we doing direct action?” instructor David Solnit, a longtime Bay Area activist who has protested internationally, asked the group sitting around a long, rectangular table.

“To piss off the powers that be,” volunteered one.
“To unite power behind us,” said another.

Handy tips

Solnit nodded, with a soft smile. Direct action protest not only “builds our power,” he said, but takes it from the 1 percent – the wealthiest of Americans.

Much of the afternoon was spent discussing and role-playing the mechanics of gumming up the gears of capitalism. Sprinkled throughout were practical tips on how to behave in the heat of nonviolent battle.

Start with the best way to sit together to block a building entrance.
Next to each other in a straight line? Bad idea. Security can pry away the weaker members, instructors said, as they demonstrated on such a chorus line.

Sitting in a circle? Better.

“But my back is kind of hurting sitting like this,” said one circle-sitter.

Handy tip: Sit back-to-back in concentric circles. Not only does it provide back support but it allows the activists to have a 360-degree view of the action. Plus, by putting the weaker members in the inner circle, it protects them from getting pried off.

When it comes to getting arrested, Solnit said, “the key thing to remember is, you always have choices.”

If you don’t want to be arrested, he said, leave when the cops tell you to disperse. “But when would be some times where you would want to be arrested?” he asked.
“To prolong the action,” said one man.

“To make a more dramatic statement,” said another.

Handy tip: Don’t wear contact lenses if you’re planning to get arrested. Pepper spray burns even more. Wear your prescription glasses instead.

Calming down

Much of the afternoon’s conversation involved “de-escalation” – how to bring down the temperature of tense confrontations. There is an art in talking nose-to-nose with the employee of a company you’re blockading. Start with saying, “This is a peaceful protest.”

Handy tip: If they’re yelling at you, match the level of their voice initially, then start talking softer. “And then they’ll start talking softer,” Solnit said.

When the training session ended, Tania Pulido was ready to hit the barricades. The Richmond resident is 23, a soon-to-be-senior at UC Berkeley and a direct-action rookie. Still, she’s a little worried about what might happen if she were to be arrested.

“It’s a risk,” she said. “I’m a student with a lot of loans. You never know what the government could do with those loans if you get arrested.”

Joe Garofoli is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: Twitter: @joegarofoli

Read more:


San Francisco Chronicle

Inside a civil disobedience training session (VIDEO)

In today’s Chronicle, we have a story about climate change activists training to engage in civil disobedience over the Keystone XL pipeline. They’re ready to roll on different protest campaigns with innocuous names like “Summer Heat” and “Fearless Summer,” but the message is clear:

Oh, it’s on.

Enviros are frustrated with the lack of political progress on halting climate change, and their anger is focused on the looming Keystone decision. A growing number of people – and not just the professional activist community – want to do something more than contact their member of Congress (who obviously aren’t listening) or post a quick rant on Facebook. That just ain’t enough, many tell me.

So let’s go to the barricades.

Naturally, this being the Bay Area, the trainings are ramping up here first. We checked out a training the other day in Richmond. Lot of role-playing. Lots. Down to some role-playing security officers wielding rolled-up foam “batons.”

Here’s the crew role-playing how they would blockade the entrance to a building. Let’s go to the video, courtesy of Francisco Chronicle’s Shaky Hand Productions:

In the next video is David Solnit – a longtime Bay Area activist who has demonstrated around the world – explaining the do’s and don’t’s of getting arrested.

Here’s a handy tip: Don’t ever touch a police officer, police dog or police horse in any way, instructors warned. One activist at the training hushed the crowd with a story about a fellow protester who pet a police horse during a demonstration. The protester, who was a horse lover, was charged with assaulting an officer.

Again, courtesy of San Francisco Chronicle/’s Shaky Hand Productions, is a peek at the training:

Special thanks to Richard Charter.

NBC News: Fracking boom triggers water battle in North Dakota

Steve Mortenson, the owner of the Trenton Water Depot in Trenton, N.D., reviews logs inside his depot on March 26.

By Ernest Scheyder

WATFORD CITY, N.D. — In towns across North Dakota, the wellhead of the North American energy boom, the locals have taken to quoting the adage: “Whiskey is for drinking, and water is for fighting.”

It’s not that they lack water, like Texas and California. They are swimming in it, and it is free for the taking. Yet as the state’s Bakken shale fields have grown, so has the fight over who has the right to tap into the multimillion-dollar market to supply water to the energy sector.

North Dakota now accounts for over 10 percent of U.S. energy output, and production could double over the next decade. The state draws water from the Missouri River and aquifers for its hydraulic fracturing, the process also known as fracking and the key that has unlocked America’s abundant shale deposits. The process is water-intensive and requires more than 2 million gallons of water per well, equal to baths for some 40,000 people.

As in all booms, new players race in to meet the outsized demand. At the heart of this battle is a scrappy government-backed cooperative, conceived to ensure fresh water in an area where its drinkability is compromised.

The co-op has decided to sell 20 percent of its water to frackers to help keep prices low and pay back state loans. That has not gone down well with the Independent Water Providers, a loose confederation of ranchers, farmers and small businesses that for years has supplied fracking water.

Since opening in January, the co-op has tried to limit the power of the confederation with an aggressive legal and lobbying strategy. The Independent Water Providers have fought back, arguing that the co-op shouldn’t be selling fracking water at all. The state Legislature stepped in with a law last month designed to quell the tension and nurture competition, but industry observers expect the acrimony to continue.

“When all of us had nothing (before the oil boom), there was nothing to fight about,” said Dan Kalil, a longtime commissioner in Williams County, home to many oil and natural gas wells. “Now, so many friendships have been destroyed because of water and oil.”

Jeanie Oudin, an analyst with energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie, predicts the competition could push down North Dakota fracking water prices at least 10 percent in the next few years, or roughly $170,000 per well. That’s a sizeable savings in a state where fracking costs are the highest in the country (remoteness meant there was little infrastructure in place). The water accounts for 20 percent of the roughly $8.5 million it costs to drill a North Dakota oil well.

“Regardless of where operators get their water from, the growth in active water depots should increase the availability of raw water for hydraulic fracturing and ultimately bring down costs,” Oudin said. The depots are where energy companies buy most of their fracking water.

The North Dakota Petroleum Council, a trade group for Statoil, Hess, Exxon Mobil, Marathon Oil and other large energy companies, declined to comment on the fight or to forecast how much water prices could fall. The council acknowledged that it would prefer multiple sources for the state’s 8,300 wells.

Energy companies get most of their water in the state by trucking it from depots to oil and natural gas wells. Some wells require more than 650 truckloads to frack. Companies such as EOG Resources Inc and Halliburton Co are experimenting with ways to reduce their dependence on water.

Fracking water depots, which cost roughly $200,000 to build and can gross more than $700,000 per year, are typically small metal buildings on concrete slabs filled with pumps and small tanks connected to the Missouri River or local aquifers. They can have two to six hookups and fill water trucks with as much as 7,800 gallons of water per visit.

The government-backed co-op has nine water depots to hold the fresh water that is piped from the treatment plant in Williston, about 45 miles north of Watford. It plans to build four more depots throughout the Bakken and hugely expand its pipeline system to bring fresh water to more homes. Small lines from the new pipelines will connect directly to some oil wells.

On the other side, Independent Water Providers member JMAC Resources will build more water depots in the region and a massive pipeline just south of the Missouri River to supply oil wells. Other members of the group have also applied for depot permits.
North Dakota water suppliers do not pay for water, and the state Legislature rejected a proposed water tax earlier this year. Each side’s plans will rapidly increase the options that energy companies have to access water, further depressing prices.

Dangerous to drink
The co-op, officially known as the Western Area Water Supply Project, was designed to boost the quality of the water reaching western North Dakota homes. State studies for years had identified high levels of sodium, sulfates and magnesium in the aquifers.

In Watford City, a dust-caked community of 2,000 dotted with oil-workers’ run-down RVs, the sodium level of the drinking water had been 18 times higher than the level recommended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “You would drink (it) and get high blood pressure,” said Mayor Brent Sanford.

The high chemical content convinced Watford City officials in 2010 to support the co-op as it was being organized, Sanford said.

By selling 20 percent of its water to frackers, the government-backed co-op hoped to keep water prices for homes low and generate enough revenue to pay back $110 million in state loans for the project. The co-op sells water to frackers at roughly 84 cents a barrel, compared to 21 cents a barrel for homes. (One barrel equals 31.5 gallons, or about 119 liters.)

Denton Zubke, the co-op board’s chairman and a credit union president, has defended the co-op’s right to sell water to frackers as the independent ranchers and farmers decry what they see as government overreach into a private industry.

“Free enterprise was never going to bring potable water supply to rural parts of North Dakota,” said Zubke, who also operates a private water depot. “The only way we foresaw putting these water pipes in the ground was to pay for them with industrial (fracking) water sales.”

More than 230 million gallons of water flow every day past the Williston plant, and the co-op itself doesn’t expect water demand from homes to exceed capacity until at least 2032, calming any shorter-term concern about fracking’s taking water away from human uses.

Closest is best
Steve Mortenson, the Independent Water Providers’ chairman, says he supports the co-op’s clean-water mission but believes private industry is best equipped to provide fracking water. “We don’t feel we should have state-backed competition,” he said. “We never expected they would use the leverage of government to oppose private business.”

Confederation members can chose at what price to sell their water; most sell at 50 cents to 75 cents per barrel. Mortenson sells at 65 cents per barrel at his depot in Trenton, a bedroom community on the state’s western edge.

Mortenson, a soft-spoken rancher, offers washers, dryers, showers and free snacks at his depot as a gesture to the truck drivers who bring him business. Energy companies typically choose water depots closest to well sites to save on fuel costs, even if the price is higher than rival sites farther away. That has driven the building of even more water depots around the Bakken.

Zubke disputes the Water Providers’ claim to be any better at selling fracking water. He fears expansion by the independents could jeopardize the co-op’s ability to pay off its debt. Using a complex Depression-era federal law known as 1926(b), he and other co-op officials have been sending cease-and-desist letters to some confederation members throughout North Dakota. They’ve also lobbied state officials –so far, unsuccessfully — to deny water permits to some independents.

Despite the contentiousness — call it fracktion — the Independent Water Providers and the co-op are sticking with their plans.

“We don’t want to profit from the water,” JMAC owner Jon McCreary said. “We want to profit by selling the infrastructure to deliver the water.”

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Fracktracker,org: US Pipelines Incidents Are a Daily Occurrence

Matt Kelso,, Apr 15 2013
Recently, there has been a lot of attention focused on the Mayflower, Arkansas pipeline failure that resulted in a massive oil spill, particularly as it comes at a time when discussions of the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline project are once again heating up. However, the situation is far from unusual.

In fact, according to data downloaded from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), there were 1,887 incidents in the nation’s gathering and transmission, distribution, and hazardous liquids pipelines between January 1, 2010 and March 29, 2013, or an average of 1.6 incidents per day.

Pipeline incidents from 1/1/2010 through 3/29/2013. Data Source: PHMSA.

Obviously, not all of these failures are on par with the massive spill in Mayflower, and it should be noted that there are a variety of reasons for these lines to fail. Some of these reasons, such as excavation activity in the vicinity of a pipeline, are not necessarily the fault of the pipeline’s operator. The fact that these incidents are commonplace, however, is not one that can be dismissed.


Pipeline incidents in the United States from 1/1/2010 through 3/29/2013. Source: PHMSA. Red Triangles represent incidents leading to fatalities, and yellow triangles represent those leading to injuries. To access the active map, legend and other controls, click the map, or here.

It is clear from the map that there a few data entry errors, as a few of the data points draw in locations that aren’t even in the jurisdiction of the United States. However, each entry also contains a city and state that the incident is associated with, and for the most part, the data seem to be fairly reliable.