White House protest planned against oil pipeline from Canada

Reply Sat 5 Nov, 2011 11:36 am
November 4, 2011
White House protest planned against oil pipeline from Canada
By Renee Schoof | McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — Thousands of people are expected to mass at the White House on Sunday to send an environmental message to President Barack Obama: Say no to a proposed pipeline that would import highly polluting oil from Canada.

It's likely to be the biggest environmental protest in Washington in a long time. Protests organizers, speaking at a press conference Friday, said the event is meant to show the president that they're passionate about cleaner energy and want Obama to take their side in the controversy over the pipeline and the source of the heavy crude oil, the tar sands of Alberta, Canada.

"We really, really believe in him," Maura Cowley, a leader of the Energy Action Coalition, a youth environmental movement, said of Obama. "But we're watching this very carefully because it's a symbol of President Obama's commitment to clean energy."

The environmentalists warn that they won't be able to turn out large numbers of voters for Obama in 2012 if he grants the pipeline permit.

"You win elections not because your hardcore supporters turn out, but because they get excited about what you're doing and they bring all their friends with them," said author Bill McKibben, who helped organize civil disobedience against the pipeline this summer. "In a sense, that's what's on offer here."

Obama should simply deny the permit, McKibben said, or at least order a fresh environmental review and delay a decision.

The proposed 1,661 mile-long pipeline from Alberta to the Texas Gulf Coast requires a presidential permit because it crosses the U.S.-Canada border.

TransCanada Corp., the company that wants to build the pipeline, has argued that its construction has economic and energy-security benefits. A study written for the company said that 20,000 construction and manufacturing jobs would be created for two years.

Opponents want the president to stop the pipeline because of the risks of spills and of impact on global warming from tapping Canada's vast oil sands. The thick crude from the oil sands produces more heat-trapping carbon-dioxide emissions than regular oil because of the extra energy required in extracting and processing it.

The extra emissions from burning the oil would be the equivalent of the pollutants from 5 million cars or seven coal-fired power plants, according to the Sierra Club.

In addition, the pipeline would cross many rivers, including the Yellowstone in Montana, and the Ogallala aquifer and the environmentally sensitive Sand Hills in Nebraska. The Nebraska legislature is in a special session focused on concerns about the pipeline's route through that state.

TransCanada expects a decision on the permit by the end of the year, company spokesman Terry Cunha said Friday.

"But if there were a delay, the impact would be quite large. We're looking at a million-dollar-a-day impact," he said. Those costs would include the costs of warehousing equipment and paying for materials that wouldn't be used.

TransCanada has contracts with companies that produce the oil in Alberta and from the Bakken oilfield in the Dakotas, Montana and Saskatchewan. The contracts call for shipping the oil to the Texas refineries beginning in 2013. "If there's a delay, it could have an impact on our contracts," Cunha said.

Another argument by supporters is that the Keystone XL pipeline would increase the supply of oil from Canada, potentially reducing imports from less friendly oil-producing countries.

An environmental impact statement about the pipeline concluded that there would be no major environmental impact or effect on climate change. The study argued that the oil sands would be developed whether or not the pipeline is built, because other ways would be found to get the oil to market.

Building or expanding other pipelines, however, could be years off, according to pipeline opponents.

Two proposed pipelines to Canada's west coast and one to Maine face strong opposition in Canada, said Michael Marx, the director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Oil campaign.

Today nearly all of Canada's exports from its oil sands go to the United States, mostly through an existing Keystone pipeline system to the Midwest.

Read more: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2011/11/04/129329/white-house-protest-planned-against.html#ixzz1cqyV8Mm6
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Reply Tue 15 Nov, 2011 09:59 am
TransCanada Says It Will Reroute Planned Pipeline
by The Associated Press
November 14, 2011

Canadian pipeline developer TransCanada will shift the route of its planned oil pipeline out of the environmentally sensitive Sandhills area of Nebraska, two company officials announced Monday night.

Speaking at a news conference at the Nebraska Capitol, the officials said TransCanada would agree to the new route, a move the company previously claimed wasn't possible, as part of an effort to push through the proposed $7 billion project. They expressed confidence the project would ultimately be approved.

Alex Pourbaix, TransCanada's president for energy and oil pipelines, said rerouting the Keystone XL line would likely require 30 to 40 additional miles of pipe and an additional pumping station. The exact route has not yet been determined, but Pourbaix said Nebraska will play a key role in deciding it.

The announcement follows the federal government's decision last week to delay a decision on a federal permit for the project until it studies new potential routes that avoid the Sandhills area and the Ogallala aquifer as the proposed pipeline carries crude oil from Canada to Texas Gulf Coast refineries.

Debate over the pipeline has drawn international attention focused largely on Nebraska, because the pipeline would cross the Sandhills an expanse of grass-strewn, loose-soil hills and part of the Ogallala aquifer, which supplies water to Nebraska and parts of seven other states.

Company officials had claimed that moving the route was impossible because of a U.S. State Department study which found the Sandhills route would leave the smallest environmental footprint.

Pourbaix said he was confident a new route would also avoid the parts of the aquifer that sit closes to the surface, which was a major concern cited by environmentalists and the region's landowners. He said moving it out of the Sandhills region would likely ease many of the concerns posed by landowners.

"We do remain confident that we could have built a safe pipeline through the original route that was approved by the State Department" in an environmental impact statement released earlier this year, Pourbaix said. "At the same time, it has always been a priority of TransCanada to listen to our stakeholders."

He added: "We're confident that collaborating with the state of Nebraska will make this process much easier."

The final federal decision on the pipeline will still likely take 12 to 18 months, a State Department official familiar with the process said Monday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because no final decision has been made.

Delaying the decision on the pipeline went over badly in Canada, where it was seen as a signal that the country must diversify its oil exports away from the United States and toward Asia.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he made it clear in a weekend meeting with President Obama that the nation will step up its efforts to sell oil to Asia since the decision was delayed, and would keep pushing the U.S. to approve the project.

"This highlights why Canada must increase its efforts to ensure it can supply its energy outside the U.S. and into Asia in particular," Harper said.

Harper said he emphasized the pipeline would mean economic growth on both sides of the border.

Business and labor groups who support the project say the environmental criticism is overblown, and based more on opposition to oil than the project itself. They say the project will create construction jobs, although the exact number is disputed.

Environmentalists and some Nebraska landowners fear the pipeline would disrupt the region's loose soil for decades, harm wildlife, and contaminate the aquifer.

The speaker of Nebraska's legislature, Mike Flood, said the state will conduct an environmental assessment of its own at state expense to determine a route that avoids the Sandhills area and other ecologically sensitive areas. The Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality will oversee the process, with collaboration from the U.S. State Department.

Noah Greenwald, a spokesman for the Center of Biological Diversity, said his group remains opposed to the pipeline and still believes it poses an environmental threat. The center is one of three environmental groups that have sued the U.S. State Department, seeking a judge's order to block the project.

"Even with the reroute, we still feel like we can push forward," he said. "We're going to keep up the public pressure on the administration as this moves forward."

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman had called a special legislative session to seek a legal and constitutional solution to the pipeline debate. But the session's stated goal to enact oil pipeline legislation has lacked a clear consensus about what, if anything, state officials ought to do.

Nebraska State Sen. Ken Haar of Malcolm, an outspoken pipeline critic, was pleased with Monday's announcement.

"It's good for the people of Nebraska. It's good for TransCanada," he said.
Reply Sun 26 Feb, 2012 09:54 am
Ranchers' Land Becomes Ground Zero In Energy Fight
Guy Raz and Brent Baughman - NPR All Things Considered
February 25, 2012

Part one of a two-part series on the Keystone XL pipeline

Gas prices are spiking once again; the cost of a gallon of regular unleaded is about 12 percent higher than it was a year ago. But winter typically isn't the time for a rise in gas prices. Demand for gasoline is at a 14-year low and domestic oil production is at an eight-year high.

Some analysts link the increase in gas prices to the tensions in Iran and speculators on Wall Street. Others point to policy decisions limiting drilling in environmentally sensitive areas, as well as President Obama's decision to deny a permit for a massive oil pipeline called Keystone XL.

The proposed pipeline would travel 1,800 miles from Alberta, Canada, all the way down to the Gulf Coast. The controversy over its impact — environmentally, politically and economically — makes it prime election issue.

A Proposal Turns Controversial

TransCanada, the company behind the proposal, already operates a massive pipeline that has been pumping crude oil from Canadian tar sands. The pipeline ends in the small town of Cushing, Okla., where the oil is stored in massive tanks scattered across the town.

When you've got an 8.3 percent unemployment rate in America and we're trying to have energy independence, to me this was a no-brainer.

- Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman

Canada has the potential to produce more than six times the amount of oil it now makes. Because the existing pipeline ends in Oklahoma, however, Canada can't deliver the oil to refineries on the Gulf Coast and, from there, to the lucrative global oil market. The Keystone XL was supposed to help resolve that issue.

When TransCanada proposed running the XL pipeline through the Sandhills of Nebraska, a delicate ecosystem, it hit a snag. All pipelines — even the most advanced like TransCanada's — eventually leak, and a few years ago, cattle ranchers said they were concerned the new pipeline would destroy the Ogallala aquifer. The Ogallala is one of the largest aquifers in America, and a primary water source for farmers and ranchers in seven states who raise cattle, wheat and corn.

Nebraska's Republican governor initially sided with the ranchers. Last August, he wrote a letter to President Obama, asking him to deny TransCanada a permit to build Keystone XL.

"When I wrote that letter, we were trying to get their attention to say look, we don't want it to go through the Sandhills," Gov. Dave Heineman says. "Probably the only option at that time was to deny the permit."

Heineman says if the Keystone XL could bypass the Sandhills, it could be an opportunity for both his state and the country.

"When you've got an 8.3 percent unemployment rate in America and we're trying to have energy independence, to me this was a no-brainer. We should have moved forward with the project," he says.

Supporters of the pipeline argue more oil from Canada means the U.S. would rely less on oil from places like Venezuela and Saudi Arabia.

TransCanada says the pipeline would create 20,000 direct jobs and thousands more related ones. (Opponents dispute those figures.)

Rancher Randy Thompson is fighting to keep the Keystone XL pipeline from being built in Nebraska.

Because of his vocal opposition to the pipeline, Randy Thompson has become a symbol in the state. There are signs all across Nebraska that feature his face and read, "I Stand With Randy."

Four years ago, Thompson was contacted by an agency representing TransCanada that said the pipeline could cross his land.

"He just said ... we're wondering if we could have permission to come on and do some surveying," Thompson says.

TransCanada wanted Thompson and other affected landowners to sign over the rights to parts of their land in order to build the pipeline.

Thompson was offered $9,000. But he wasn't interested.

In 2010, TransCanada sent a letter to his 92-year-old mother, who co-owned the land with him. The gist of the letter was if they refused to cooperate, Keystone would use eminent domain to acquire an easement.

A letter from TransCanada sent to Randy Thompson's mother.

Thompson was stunned that a foreign company could potentially take over his land. But Robert Jones, TransCanada's vice president, says the company was following normal procedure.

"The Keystone pipeline system was under construction in 2010 and we were absolutely considering the precedent in the past, anticipating a presidential permit shortly," Jones sy.

Thompson and other ranchers thought the tone of the letters was unnecessarily aggressive, but the letters had the opposite effect on other landowners.

"I had a neighbor told me, said, these guys are way too big," Thompson says. "There's no need to fight them. Just as well sign and get it over with. So he signed the easement right away."

Getting Personal

Luebbe says she worries the pipeline would ruin her land.

Another rancher, Sue Luebbe, lives right in the heart of the Sandhills. The water table on her land is so close to the surface, you need to dig down only two feet to hit the aquifer.

One afternoon four years ago, she noticed a helicopter hovering over her land. Inside the cockpit were two surveyors working on behalf of TransCanada.

The chopper terrified Luebbe's cattle, causing a stampede that sent them into a barbed-wire fence. Luebbe got on the hood of her pickup truck and pointed a rifle at the helicopter.

"I saw both of them and I also gave them some sign language. They kind of understood," she says. "So they took off as fast as they could."

She says she refused an $18,000 offer from TransCanada to build the pipeline on her land. Like Thompson, she's joined Bold Nebraska, a group that's made it its mission to stop the Keystone XL.

The Battle Continues

TransCanada says it will submit a new proposal to the U.S. government next year. The proposed route, the company says, won't go through the Sandhills.

But now, Thompson and other ranchers are convinced the whole enterprise is bad for the environment and a raw deal for Nebraska.

Thompson says remembering his parents' perseverance through the Great Depression and droughts drive him. If they were able to survive those hard times, he says, he can get through this.

"I know what my folks went through to get a piece of ground. And these sons of bitches come along and they tell me we're going to take this land away from you whether you want us to or not," he says, "and they got a fight on their hands."

Heineman says he's sympathetic, but only to a point.

"The fact of the matter is we're still going to be using coal and oil for a long period of time. Hey, I'm a supporter that we need to move to cleaner coal technology and those things," he says, "but it is not going to happen overnight."
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Reply Thu 19 Apr, 2012 12:09 pm
TransCanada submits new Nebraska routes for Keystone XL oil pipeline
By Associated Press
April 18. 2012

WASHINGTON — The company planning the disputed Keystone XL oil pipeline has proposed a new route through Nebraska that avoids the state’s environmentally sensitive Sandhills region.

Calgary-based TransCanada submitted a series of proposed routes — including a preferred alternative — late Wednesday to Nebraska environmental officials.

The state has become a focus of concern for the 1,700-mile pipeline, which would carry oil from Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast. President Barack Obama blocked the pipeline earlier this year, citing uncertainty over the Nebraska route, which would travel above an aquifer that provides water to eight states.

Details of the preferred route were not immediately available. A spokesman for the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality said officials hope to post the full proposal on the Internet as soon as Thursday.

A spokeswoman for the State Department said U.S. officials had not received notification of a new route. State Department approval is needed because the $7 billion pipeline would cross a U.S. border.

In blocking the pipeline in January, Obama said there was not enough time for a fair review before a looming deadline forced on him by congressional Republicans. The action did not kill the project but put off a tough choice on the pipeline project, which has become a flashpoint in a bitter partisan fight over jobs and the environment.

Pipeline supporters — including GOP lawmakers and many business and labor leaders— call the pipeline an important job creator. Opponents — including Democrats and environmental groups — say it would transport “dirty oil” from tar sands in Alberta, Canada, that requires huge amounts of energy to extract. They also worry about a possible spill.

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman signed a bill earlier this week that allows the state to proceed with its review of the proposed pipeline through his state, regardless of what happens at the federal level.

Obama said last month he will direct federal agencies to fast-track a segment of the pipeline from Oklahoma to Texas. The 485-mile line from Cushing, Okla., to refineries on Texas’ Gulf coast would remove a critical bottleneck in the country’s oil transportation system, as rising oil production has outgrown pipelines’ capacity to deliver oil to refineries.
Reply Wed 2 May, 2012 10:47 am
A better case for Keystone XL
By Editorial Board Washington Post
May 1, 2012

THE CASE FOR ultimately approving the Keystone XL pipeline — always strong — has grown stronger.

A key environmentalist argument against Keystone XL has been that the project would encourage the extraction of bitumen, a particularly dirty oil-like substance, from the “oil sands” in Alberta. If activists could “shut in” Canadian bitumen, limiting the ability of oil companies to sell the product, they argued, perhaps petroleum firms wouldn’t be able to fully develop the oil sands.

That hope always was unrealistic, and a recent announcement from Kinder Morgan, another pipeline company, illustrates why. The firm wants to nearly triple the capacity of its existing Trans Mountain pipeline between Alberta and Vancouver — a route from the oil sands to the world market — enabling it to carry even more product than the Keystone XL would. From there, much of it would probably head to Asia. Because the pipeline exists, expanding it may not face the same regulatory hurdles — particularly opposition from native groups — that other proposals to run new pipelines to Canada’s west coast have encountered.

There is already enough spare pipeline capacity running out of the oil sands to accommodate increasing production for much of this decade, a government report concluded in 2010. While Kinder Morgan’s expansion certainly wouldn’t sate all the future demand for pipeline capacity, it would add more time before the environmentalists’ strategy could seriously impact production. And it demonstrates a critical point: Even if environmentalists manage to stop one pipeline or another, given high world oil prices, the enthusiastic support of the Canadian government, the many transport options and the years available to develop infrastructure, it’s beyond quixotic to believe that enough of the affordable paths out will be blocked. Environmentalists might succeed, however, in relocating some construction jobs outside the United States.

So President Obama’s refusal so far to authorize Keystone XL has little rational basis. On the other hand, the Republican response hardly represents an ideal of policymaking, either. GOP lawmakers have repeatedly attempted to amend bills to mandate the approval of Keystone XL, attaching such a provision to a transportation bill they passed last month.

Attracting foreign investment in projects that will create U.S. jobs requires predictable regulatory procedures. The way to encourage the efficient extraction and delivery of the oil that the United States will require for decades is to make clear that government won’t use the issue as a political football. Both sides have given investors reason to worry during the Keystone XL fight.
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Pamela Rosa
Reply Tue 25 Jun, 2013 07:13 pm
Official: Obama to link pipeline OK to emissions
By JOSH LEDERMAN | Associated Press – 7 hrs ago

WASHINGTON (AP) — A White House official says President Barack Obama is telling the State Department it shouldn't approve the Keystone XL pipeline unless it's sure the project won't increase greenhouse gas emissions.

Obama was making the announcement Tuesday in a speech on his climate change plan at Georgetown University. That's according to a senior White House official, who wasn't authorized to discuss the announcement by name ahead of Obama's speech and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Environmental activists have been pleading with Obama not to approve the pipeline, which would carry oil extracted from tar sands in western Canada to refineries along the Texas Gulf Coast. The White House has insisted the State Department is making the decision about whether the pipeline is in the national interest.

A State Department report on the pipeline earlier this year acknowledged that development of tar sands in Alberta would create greenhouse gases, but also made clear that other methods to transport the oil — including rail, trucks and barges — also pose a risk to the environment. Obama's instruction to the State Department relates to overall, net emissions, taking into account methods that would be used to ship the oil of the pipeline weren't built.

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