Breaking: State Department Calls Keystone XL Environmental Impact "Limited," Ignoring Evidence

Thu, 2011-08-25 23:19Emma Pullman
Emma Pullman's picture

Breaking: State Department Calls Keystone XL Environmental Impact "Limited," Ignoring Evidence

The State Department just released their Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. The 27-page document does not flag any significant environmental concerns. The EIS suggests that construction of the pipeline as proposed is preferable to alternatives considered, including: not building the pipeline, rerouting the proposed location, and transporting the oil through alternative means.

In typical agency beurocratic-speak, the main alternatives are described as such:

  • No Action Alternative – potential scenarios that could occur if the proposed Project is not built and operated;
  • System Alternatives − the use of other pipeline systems or other methods of providing Canadian crude oil to the Cushing tank farm and the Gulf Coast market;
  • Major Route Alternatives − other potential pipeline routes for transporting heavy crude oil from the U.S./Canada border to Cushing, Oklahoma and the Gulf Coast market.

None of the alternatives were considered by the State Department to be preferable to proposed construction.

The Department will have to conduct another assessment of whether the pipeline is in the “national interest”, as well as a 90-day public comment period, but the public hearings scheduled for the fall are unlikely to change the positive decision. Thus today’s State Department report is widely considered the final say on approval. The only recourse now is President Obama’s power to overrule that approval. People are now watching Obama’s biggest test on climate and the environment before 2012 with bated breath.

TransCanada has already begun planning to start construction on the pipeline as early as 2012, and for a pipeline that TransCanada’s President for Energy and Oil Pipelines Alexander J. Pourbaix calls “the safest oil pipeline built in the U.S”, there are a lot of reasons to believe otherwise.

The State Department Environmental Assessment of the already-constructed Keystone I pipeline predicted a maximum of 1 spill approximately every 7 years. Similarly, TransCanada’s projections suggest 11 significant spills over Keystone XL’s pipeline’s 50 year operational lifetime.
Transcanada’s Keystone I pipeline has already sprung 12 leaks in the past year alone, spilling nearly 30,000 gallons of bitumen crude. In May, EPA forced TransCanada to shut down the pipeline for several days until it met increased safety standards. Then, in June, the Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued a Corrective Action Order, stopping use of the pipeline until safety problems had been corrected.

Independent analysis performed by University of Nebraska professor Dr. John Stansbury argues that TransCanada’s used faulty information to calculate safety assessments for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.
  • The “Keystone XL Worst-Case Spills Study found that rather than 11 significant spills, a more realistic assessment is 91 significant spills over the pipeline’s operational lifetime
  • Stansbury alleges that TransCanada ignored historical data that represents 23 percent of historical pipeline spills, and made the assumption that its pipeline would only half as many spills as other pipelines. 
  • According to Stansbury’s report, TransCanada’s calculations use a 19-minute shut down time, but the company assumes that it will only take 11 minutes and 30 seconds to shut down the pipeline. Stansbury shows that a “response to a leak at a river crossing could conservatively take more than ten times longer” than TransCanada estimates. 
These inadequate estimations mean that worst-case spill volumes will likely be significantly larger than those estimated by TransCanada.

Finally, in the Supplemental Draft EIS (not the report issued today, which we are still reviewing), Keystone XL is expected to leak due to flooding and washout only once every 87,800 years. After July’s ExxonMobil Yellowstone spill, it seems outrageous to claim that flooding and washout will claim a pipeline once every 90,000 years. With climate change, there will be increased rainfall and extreme weather, and current models of erosion prediction will be inaccurate.

The Supplemental Draft EIS also expects one incident due to corrosion every 3,400 yearsTransCanada failed to take into account that tar sands pipelines are operated at higher temperatures and pressures, and that, because of its chemical makeup, it is well known that bitumen is more acidic than the conventional crude and more corrosive, with more abrasive agents in it. 

TransCanada’s track record with Keystone I is poor, and it seems foolhardy to trust them with the drinking water for two million people, the health of hundreds of communities, and for numerous ecologically vulnerable regions.

As Amy Goodman writes, in architecture, a “keystone” is the stone at the top of an arch that holds it together. With it, the structure is strong, but without, the structure collapses. To our “keystone”: Obama, we’re waiting with breathless anticipation. 

Comments

WUWT, GWPF and its mouthpiece The Register, etc, etc: Still censoring comments, still blocking IP addresses. What are they trying to hide?

More pertinently, how do you anonymous people, who don’t believe there’s an issue to answer about polluting the environment, find the time to always be the first to post?

If you’ve got some published evidence of your own which counters that documented here, put up or shut up. Anything else just marks you out as a mouthpiece for the oil industry.

The alternative to tar sands is supposed to be green energy along with great green energy jobs.

Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to work http://m.ocregister.com/opinion/jobs-313853-green-job.html

What are you talking about, denier?!

Seattle, Washington received a $20 million federal grant, paid by US taxpayers for ‘green jobs’. One year later, 14 new ‘green jobs’ had been created! Not only that, but 3 homes have been retrofitted with insulation!

I seriously doubt you’d be able to find ANY insulating company to insulate your home and match the price of only $6.7 million. Thank Gaia for government spending taxpayer dollars in such an eco-friendly way.

And as a bonus, they created 14 high-tech ‘green jobs’ – shoving fiberglass batts between ceiling joists in attics – and each job created only cost taxpayers $1.42 million. A bargain at half the price!

Besides, we all know the Keystone pipline would only create a mere 100,000 jobs (20,000 in Canada), and taxpayers would never have a chance to generously participate in paying for the creation of those jobs.

It is also a well-known fact that the jobs created by the oil & gas sector are very low-paying, to the point that they mostly employ unskilled illegal Mexicans. And if you disagree with me, you are a racist.

Link for above news item: http://www.seattlepi.com/local/article/Seattle-s-green-jobs-program-a-bust-2031902.php#page-1

What are you complaining about: the principle of energy efficiency and renewable energy, because it will reduce the carbon industry’s profits, or the incompetence of that program in Seattle?

The unsettling thing is that the coal and oil industries are run by people, but their actions imply that they don’t care about the negative effects of what they do on public health. You see the same antisocial behavior with some car drivers recklessness towards pedestrians, as if they were never pedestrians themselves. However, at least there are sanctions against the latter group.

“What are you complaining about: the principle of energy efficiency and renewable energy …”

Complaining?! What makes you think I’m complaining?! I have nothing but praise for the geniuses who can insulate an old, run-down house for a mere $7 million a shot!

Just think: that lucky, deserving homeowner/squatter will possibly save up to $67 a year in heating bills … well, assuming they pay their own heating bills to begin with, and it only cost taxpayers $7 million! If nothing else, they’ll be able to use the extra money they save from their welfare cheque to buy more crack – so it’s a win-win situation!

“… because it will reduce the carbon industry’s profits…”

I’m not sure what “the carbon industry is”, but if you were talking about oil & gas, let me assure you, Keith M, that I share your outrage at their criminal profiteering!

http://www.dailymarkets.com/economy/2011/05/12/oil-industry-profit-margin-ranks-114-out-215/

It is inexcusable that the oil and gas industry is raping consumers to make their monsterous 6.2% profit! How DARE they!!! Have they no shame?! Why, that’s almost as much as catalogue and mail order companies make! It’s almost as much as the confectionary industry steals from us (7% profit!!) – and we know what unscrupulous thugs THEY are!

“… or the incompetence of that program in Seattle?”

What “incompetence”? The program worked perfectly! Are you claiming you could have done a better job? Like I said – sheer genius!

“The unsettling thing is that the coal and oil industries are run by people, but their actions imply that they don’t care about the negative effects of what they do on public health.”

Oh, I’m with you there, too, Keith M! As we all know, the corpses are piling up. There is no crime too heinous for the oil and gas industry to which they will not stoop! They shamelessly murder babies and old people in their sleep. I read on DaSmogblog that they even test their foul, toxic products on bunny rabbits and baby chimpanzees!

Mark my words, some day these monsters will be held to account for their crimes against humanity!

(Although, I must admit that I sometimes wonder what effect hypothermia and frostbite would have on the public health, from trying to heat ones home with a windmill?)

“You see the same antisocial behavior with some car drivers recklessness towards pedestrians, as if they were never pedestrians themselves.”

Exactly, Keith M! And I can tell by the astute nature of your comment, that they don’t come any more pedestrian than you. And I mean that in a good way.

“However, at least there are sanctions against the latter group.”

It’s true. When will we finally take action against the drunken oil and gas industry – drunk on their insane 6.2% profit, earned by MURDERING innocent people?!

Ha ha, like your style. It makes a change from the more blatant astro-turfing that goes on here. However, it doesn’t disguise your tactics of cherry picking and raising straw men.

For example, you omitted to mention the tax breaks given to the highly profitable oil companies to do what they would be doing anyway:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/04/business/04bptax.html

Neither did you mention the damage caused by oil spills that may be out of your sight, but that doesn’t put them out of mind:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/may/30/oil-spills-nigeria-niger-delta-shell

Sure, we are dependent on oil, but the only reason for not maximizing efforts to reduce consumption and find alternatives is the effect on the profits of the oil industry. That’s why they spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year lobbying against green energy initiatives. Which is where people like you fit in.

You should stick to humor, because haranguing is just tedious. As I said, and note that you made no attempt to refute, we have allowed ourselves to become dependent on oil, and the only plausible reason for not maximizing efforts to reduce consumption and find alternatives is the effect that would have on the profits of the oil industry. That’s why they spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year lobbying against green energy initiatives. Which is where people like you fit in.

” and the only plausible reason for not maximizing efforts to reduce consumption…” is the deeply held desire to offload personal responsibility to corporations.

It’s why people are willing to enjoy the free ride of cheap energy while complaining about the providers of cheap energy. Big Oil is really the guy in the suv with a house in the burbs and airline tickets in his pocket and he’s in deep denial about it.

Which shows how successful the campaign funded by Big Oil to confuse the public about AGW has been. They know they don’t actually have to counter any scientific evidence, because they know the public are a soft touch. Nobody wants to believe that what they’re doing is affecting the climate, and most people are scientifically illiterate, so are easy meat for this propaganda.

You don’t take much provocation to show your true colors. We’ve only got one planet to live on, so we’d better look after it!

Incidentally, you asked “How can I possibly refute something you haven’t written until now?”. You should have read what I wrote in response to one of your earlier posts.

d’Smogblog: Still censoring comments, still blocking IP addresses. What are they trying to hide?

I’m sure that the AGW denial propagandists will make sure that the word gets out about “the CERN report”, suitably spun - even though you don’t seem to know that CERN have a lot of reports you could be alluding to. However, assuming that it’s the one that WUWT has latched on to, you should read the synopsis here:

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v476/n7361/full/nature10343.html

“Here we present the first results from the CLOUD experiment at CERN. We find that atmospherically relevant ammonia mixing ratios of 100 parts per trillion by volume, or less, increase the nucleation rate of sulphuric acid particles more than 100–1,000-fold. Time-resolved molecular measurements reveal that nucleation proceeds by a base-stabilization mechanism involving the stepwise accretion of ammonia molecules. Ions increase the nucleation rate by an additional factor of between two and more than ten at ground-level galactic-cosmic-ray intensities, provided that the nucleation rate lies below the limiting ion-pair production rate. We find that ion-induced binary nucleation of H2SO4–H2O can occur in the mid-troposphere but is negligible in the boundary layer. However, even with the large enhancements in rate due to ammonia and ions, atmospheric concentrations of ammonia and sulphuric acid are insufficient to account for observed boundary-layer nucleation.”

The last sentence should give you a clue that this research has established no proof that cosmic rays are a significant cause of global warming. To demonstrate that cosmic rays were responsible for some part of the recent warming, it would be necessary to show that there was actually a decreasing trend in cosmic rays over recent decades, which is not the case.

In fact, it’s a fine example of the scientific method at work: systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses. Quite the opposite of the zombie arguments put forward by those engaging in propaganda at the behest of the oil and coal industries.

Make up your mind, is the CLOUD experiment at CERN working to establish if cosmic rays play any part in global warming or not? From your response your answer must be, “only if it refutes the AGW hypothesis”, which is the opposite of the scientific method.

[x]
Alex MacLean, oilsands, keystone xl, tar sands

Alex MacLean is one of America’s most famed and iconic aerial photographers. His perspective on human structures, from bodies sunbathing at the beach to complex, overlapping highway systems, always seems to hint at a larger symbolic meaning hidden in the mundane. By photographing from above, MacLean shows the sequences and patterns of human activity, including the scope of our impact on natural systems. His work reminds us of the law of proximity: the...

read more