Despite another oil spill, Keystone XL pipeline is approved in Nebraska. Resistance is strong and resolute

On November 16, TransCanada Pipeline shut down the existing Keystone Pipeline to contain a spill in South Dakota, estimated at 210,000 gallons– the third in the area since operations began in 2010.  Reports include “South Dakota Warns It Could Revoke Keystone Pipeline Permit Over Oil Spill”  in Inside Climate News .   On November 20, the Nebraska Public Service Commission granted approval to Keystone  – but an approval which Anthony Swift at NRDC describes as a “pyrrhic victory” because the original proposed route through Nebraska was rejected, and the new alternative route approved – the Keystone Mainline Alternative route –  must now undergo new state and federal environmental approval processes .  Official intervenors may also file an appeal  in the Nebraska courts within 30 days and may petition the Public Service Commission for a rehearing within ten days.  Even TransCanada seems to wonder if the Keystone will ever get built – the official press release  states:  “As a result of today’s decision, we will conduct a careful review of the Public Service Commission’s ruling while assessing how the decision would impact the cost and schedule of the project. ”   Other reaction to the news of the approval: from The National Observer  ;  Alberta’s Calgary HeraldCouncil of Canadians ; Bold Nebraska (an alliance of landowners, environmental groups and First Nations), and  from Common Dreams, ” ‘This Fight Is Far From Over’ Groups Declare as Nebraska Clears Path for Keystone XL Construction”  – summarizing the responses of 350.org and the Sierra Club.

As for strong and resolute opposition: In May 2017, CBC reported that leaders of the Blackfoot Confederacy in Canada, the Great Sioux Nation (U.S.) and the Ponca tribe (U.S.)  signed a joint declaration of opposition to Keystone XL . In a broader coalition,  First Nations, along with non-native groups such as 350.org and Greenpeace USA, have now launched  the Promise to Protect campaign which states:We will make a series of stands along the route – nonviolent but resolute displays of our continued opposition to a project that endangers us all. Join native and non-native communities in the Promise to Protect the land, water, and climate. ”  In light of the resolute and deep resistance, it is important to note an article in The Intercept   “Nebraska approves Keystone XL Pipeline as opponents face criminalization of protests”   (Nov. 20), which reported:  “In anticipation of the Keystone XL’s construction, legislation was passed in South Dakota in March that allows the governor or a local sheriff to prohibit groups numbering more than 20 from gathering on public land or in schools, and also allows the Department of Transportation to limit access to highways by prohibiting stopping or parking in designated areas.”  The South Dakota Senate Bill 176 is here.

 

Ontario Energy Board Consultation on Energy East Pipeline

The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) released four preliminary assessments from its technical advisors on TransCanada’s proposed Energy East pipeline project on January 15, 2015. The report relating to socioeconomic aspects is by the Mowat Centre at the University of Toronto and concludes that “TransCanada’s estimated benefits are likely inflated while local benefits are expected to be small, particularly along the converted portion of the pipeline in northern Ontario”. The OEB Energy East Consultation webpage compiles all technical and background papers and submissions to date. The deadline to make a public submission is February 6, 2015; a link is available on the OEB website. Also see The Council of Canadians Energy East webpage.

Pipeline News: Energy East Application filed at NEB; Quebec Response

On October 30th, Trans Canada filed a formal application for its Energy East pipeline project from the National Energy Board (NEB). See the NEB website for information about the Energy East application and the National Energy Board process, including how to participate, or see the CBC website for “TransCanada Formally Applies to NEB for Energy East Pipeline Approval”.

TransCanada claims the project will directly or indirectly create 14,000 jobs, and help create $36 billion worth of economic activity, basing its projections on a new Conference Board of Canada report, which updates a previous report by Deloitte consultants. See Energy East Pipeline Project: Understanding the Economic Benefits for Canada and its RegionsSee also an “Economic Backgrounder” from Trans Canada.

 On November 6th, the Québec National Assembly unanimously passed a resolution asserting provincial jurisdiction to conduct its own environmental assessment and casting a vote of non-confidence in the NEB process. The resolution condemned the NEB’s exclusion of climate impacts from the factors it considers and the failure of the federal government to adopt national emissions regulations for oil and gas. Québec’s Minister of Natural Resources said the province will analyze potential economic and environmental impacts and the threat to its wintertime natural gas supply in consultation with the public, and will appear before the NEB with its findings. Find the resolution in the legislative Votes and Proceedings for Nov. 6 at page 471, and the Quebec press release. See reaction to the resolution from the Pembina Institute, emphasizing climate impacts. The Québec Minister of Environment also sent a letter to Trans Canada on November 18th which  outlined seven project conditions, including assurance the province will benefit economically and adequate involvement of the public and First Nations in decision-making. Read the conditions in “Environment Minister sets Conditions for TransCanada in Quebec”.

Federal Government Scientists: an Open Letter in their Support, and an Injunction for Energy East Based on their Concerns

The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), along with the Union of Concerned Scientists, marked the Government of Canada’s Science and Technology week with an advertising campaign which included an open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

muzzle_scientists_canada_report_535_692The letter states: “Canada’s leadership in basic research, environmental, health and other public science is in jeopardy…We urge you to restore government science funding and the freedom and opportunities to communicate these findings internationally”. The letter was signed by more than 800 scientists from 32 countries, from institutions such as Harvard Medical School in the U.S. and the Max Planck Institute in Germany. PIPSC, which represents scientists employed by the federal government, has published earlier surveys of its members to document their perceptions of being “muzzled”; a related advocacy group, Evidence for Democracy, released its own report on October 8, compiling and ranking the communications policies of federal government departments.

The world has seen this before, as described in a blog by the Union for Concerned Scientists, and coincidentally, by the New York Times obituary on October 19, 2014 for Rick Pitz. Pitz was a U.S. whistleblower who exposed the subtle manipulation of scientific reports on climate change in the Bush administration between 2002 and 2003.

Ignoring the opinions of federal government scientists has its perils. On September 23, the Quebec Superior Court issued a temporary injunction to stop TransCanada’s exploratory drilling for the Energy East pipeline. Part of the reason for the injunction: environmental groups provided internal documents showing that scientists from the federal department of Fisheries and Oceans had been raising concerns for months about the impact of the exploratory drilling on the habitat of threatened St. Lawrence beluga whales, and of the proposed oil terminal that would be built to service 250-metre long supertankers. The court ruled that, by ignoring the scientists’ concerns, Quebec’s Minister of the Environment erred in issuing a permit for the exploratory work.

LINKS:

PIPSC Press release, with a link to the Open Letter, is at: http://www.pipsc.ca/portal/page/portal/website/news/newsreleases/news/21102014

Can Scientists Speak? Grading Communication Policies For Federal Government Scientists is at: https://evidencefordemocracy.ca/canscientistsspeak, with a blog which summarizes Canadian and U.S. experience at the Union of Concerned Scientists at: http://blog.ucsusa.org/want-to-talk-to-a-scientist-in-canada-dont-look-to-the-federal-government-678

See the CBC report at:http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/foreign-scientists-call-on-stephen-harper-to-restore-science-funding-freedom-1.2806571 for links to previous stories in this ongoing issue.

Rick Pitz obituary in the New York Times (Oct. 19, 2014) is at: http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/10/19/a-passing-rick-piltz-a-bush-era-whistleblower/?_php=true&_type=blogs&module=Search&mabReward=relbias%3Ar&_r=0, and the related expose of Philip A. Cooney, “Bush Aide Softened Greenhouse Gas Links to Global Warming” in the New York Times (June 8, 2005) at: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/08/politics/08climate.html?emc=eta1

“TransCanada work on St. Lawrence port Suspended by Quebec Court Order” on the CBC website (September 23) at: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/transcanada-work-on-st-lawrence-port-suspended-by-quebec-court-order-1.2775613

Energy East Pipeline: Transporting Crude Oil for Export, not Processing

Contrary to the economic projections put forth by TransCanada Pipeline, a new report released on March 18 contends that the proposed Energy East pipeline will be used primarily as a means to export crude oil, rather than to refine it in Canada.

The Energy East project would convert 3,000 kilometres of existing natural gas pipeline in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario to carry crude oil, and also would build over 1,500 km of new pipelines through Quebec and New Brunswick, with the objectiveenergyeastreport of carrying 1.1 million barrels of crude oil per day. In September 2013, an industry-sponsored report by Deloitte & Touche consultants projected job creation in the order of 10,000 jobs in development and construction, and 1,000 ongoing jobs in the operational phase.

TransCanada’s Energy East Pipeline: For Export, Not Domestic Gain argues that the crude delivered by Energy East would exceed the processing capacity of existing Canadian refineries, given that they also source crude from the U.S., the Newfoundland offshore, and in the future, the newly-approved Line 9 pipeline project. The authors argue that new refineries are unlikely to be built in Canada, and point to TransCanada’s proposed plans for export terminals at Gros Cacouna, Québec (east of Québec City) and Saint John, New Brunswick to prove that the intended purpose of the oil is export.

LINKS

TransCanada’s Energy East Pipeline: For Export, Not Domestic Gain, prepared jointly by the Council of Canadians, Ecology Action Centre, Environmental Defence and Equiterre, is available at: http://www.canadians.org/publications/transcanada%E2%80%99s-energy-east-export-pipeline-not-domestic-gain

CBC summary is at: http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/energy-east-pipeline-benefits-overblown-report-says-1.2576782

Energy East: The Economic Benefits of TransCanada’s Canadian Mainline Conversion Project (Sept. 2013) is on the Deloitte website at: http://www.energyeastpipeline.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Energy-East-Deloitte-Economic-Benefits-Report.pdf