In August, 2011, I posted an article about the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline, oil sands it is designed to move, its proposed route, and the U.S. government’s role in its progress. In September, 2011, I posted an article about how the House of Representatives passed a bill calling for it to be completed (North American-Made Energy Security Act – H.R. 1938), but the Senate will not pass it. Now I propose to update its progress and the environmentalist lawsuit it has attracted.
State Department’s Role
Approval of the Keystone XL pipeline rests with the U.S. State Department since the pipeline will cross an international border. The State Department, in an environmental impact statement released August 26, 2011, said that the Keystone XL Pipeline will have no significant impact on water and other natural resources along its proposed route. Tomorrow, October 7, 2011, The State Department is scheduled to hold a final hearing on preliminary approval of the pipeline, granted in August, 2011, to TransCanada Corporation. Before construction and operation of the pipeline expansion can proceed, Obama, through the U.S. State Department’s permitting process, must grant final approval of the project. As of today, October 6, 2011, President Obama has not approved nor disapproved the pipeline. A decision from him is expected by the end of the year.
Jobs versus Environment
Building the pipeline will create 20,000 jobs, according to pipeline supporters, which include labor unions and business groups. However, environmentalists and green energy advocates see the move as increasing US dependency on one of the dirtiest kinds of fossil fuels. Some landowners and politicians in states through which the pipeline will run fear that a spill will contaminate local aquifers, and affect the Ogallala Aquifer. Further, environmentalists say, the pipeline will cross a wetland ecosystem in Nebraska called the Sandhills.
The proposed pipeline passes through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, receiving support from the governors of all the states along the route except Nebraska. Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman has said, “I want to emphasize that I am not opposed to pipelines. I am opposed to the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline route because it is directly over the Ogallala Aquifer.”
Three conservationist groups contend in a lawsuit that U.S. officials illegally allowed TransCanada to begin preparing the route for its proposed Keystone XL pipeline from western Canada to Texas. The lawsuit, filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Western Nebraska Resources Council, and Friends of the Earth, alleges that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service allowed TransCanada to prematurely disrupt the environment.
The lawsuit says federal officials have allowed TransCanada to mow native grasslands along the route, and to relocate American burying beetles, an endangered species. TransCanada was allowed to mow delicate native grasses in the Sandhills of Nebraska and to relocate the American burying beetle, the lawsuit alleges. TransCanada spokesman Shawn Howard said that it mowed some grass as part of efforts to protect and move some of the protected beetles. In every case where mowing was done, the company received permission from landowners, and he said mowing doesn’t constitute construction.
If We Don’t Build It, China Will
Environmentalists who think that blocking the Keystone XL pipeline will stop development of the oil sands are incorrect. Last year, China’s state owned Sinopec bought into Syncrude for $4.7 billion. Cnooc bought bankrupt OPTI Canada for $2.1 billion. Husky Oil, though still a Canadian company with large oil sands holdings, is controlled by Victor Li, son of Chinese billionaire Li Ka-Shing. China will finance pipelines to carry oil sands to the Pacific coast. Last month pipeline builder Enbridge announced that it has enough interested oil companies to start planning of a $5.5 billion pipeline to carry oil sands crude from Alberta to Kitimat, British Columbia. Sinopec said that it is willing to finance the project.
Regardless of Obama’s decision whether or not to authorize the pipeline, the oil will likely be produced. His disapproval means that oil sands will go to China and other countries. A subsidiary of the China National Oil Company has already offered $2.1 billion to buy a Canadian oil sands producer in Calgary. Pro-pipeline observers say what environmentalist groups fail to comprehend is that Canada selling oil sands to China, India, and other countries will have no environmental benefit for the United States, but what it will do is cost this country thousands of high-paying jobs, and increase U.S. energy dependence on oil produced by unfriendly and/or unstable regimes.
But that’s just my opinion.