The Keystone XL Pipeline: buried by bad decisions

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Today’s guest post is from a tough Canadian conservationist, Brian L. Horejsi.

As early as fall 2011 President Obama and administration insiders will approve the construction of the massive Keystone XL pipeline. With the stroke of that pen the gates will open to the daily flow of about 700,000 barrels of the most costly and toxic oil on earth from below the no longer quiet boreal forests of Alberta to Oklahoma and the Gulf of Mexico. He will make that decision on the back of pressure from Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, personal pressure from Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper whose home happens to be in Alberta, and under intense pressure from a coalition of republicans and democrats whose election campaigns have benefited from millions of dollars contributed by the oil and gas industry.

He will point willingly, and with relief I suspect, to “clearance” provided by what I think will be a “final” Environmental assessment (from the State Department and the EPA) that will attempt to clear away the political and public dissent, like the bulldozers that level the desert habitat of endangered tortoises in the name of solar energy; it will do so with conclusions that impacts will be incremental and “marginal” in scope, that there has been adequate study of the proposed Pipeline route and appropriate measures will be promised to prevent and detect a leak or spill, that technology will mitigate the ecological and Green House Gas (GHG) impacts of pipeline construction, that the massing impacts of Tarsands exploitation are “someone else’s problem” and that Americas future will not be “jeopardized”. It should not surprise Americans if significant and rapidly growing social and environmental debts, built and aggravated by unsustainable industrialization resulting from more subsidized fossil fuel being pumped into the region, are largely dismissed.

Obama will likely approve construction of the massive Keystone pipeline even though it will rip a 50 to 150 foot physical and ecological trough through public and private property and run roughshod over the legal right of thousands of public and private land owners to object to forced entry of their property. The corporate giant behind this proposal is a Canadian company (TransCanada Pipelines, although it pulls along an American partner, Conoco Phillips) that brings “expectations” of approval borne of a long pedigree of successfully operating in Canada’s virtually non-existent regulatory environment.

Some TransCanada – Keystone Background

Few Americans, and very few Canadians, are aware of the anemic regulatory structure existing in Canada or its provinces, especially Alberta, where corporations, in this case the oil and gas industry, move largely unchallenged through the public and regulatory framework, like the proverbial bull in the china shop. Most people probably think that a company like TransCanada, proposing a massive project like Keystone XL, would face some stringent environmental and regulatory hoops in the process of getting pipeline approvals in Canada or Alberta.

But such an assumption would be erroneous. There are many, many examples of non- function in the oil and gas “regulatory” world, but it’s worth a quick look at one that happens to contrast with the recent and ongoing American experience. Fracking of natural gas, coal bed methane and shale formations in the U.S. is a relatively recent threat to humans, land, water and biodiversity that is drawing legitimate resistance and scrutiny across the American landscape. I suspect only a handful of Americans (and for that matter, Canadians) are aware that fracking has been widespread in Alberta since at least the 1980s, but in spite of that, it has never been subjected to environmental or social impact assessment in Canada; further, as evidence of the close ties between the oil and gas industry and corporate media, it has never been questioned or exposed by the media as a destructive practice that invades public and private landscapes and lives with historical indifference.

Please read the complete article by clicking on the attachment at the bottom of this post:

And here for additional developing news on the Tar Sands issue

This article ran in CounterPunch on 09 August, 2011, under the title: How the Keystone XL Got Buried By Bad Decisions. Obama and the Tar Sands Pipeline.

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