2012-01-31 "Why the GOP Loves Keystone XL and Wants Congress to Approve the Pipeline" by Mike Ludwig from "Truthout"
Senate Republicans announced a bill on Monday that would allow Canadian oil company TransCanada to begin construction of its proposed $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline that would run 1,700 miles from Canada to Texas.
The bill's top sponsors - Sens. Richard Lugar (R-Indiana), John Hoeven (R-North Dakota), David Vitter (R-Louisiana) - are the same lawmakers who authored a provision in the payroll tax cut extension in December that required President Obama to approve or deny the pipeline within 60 days.
Blaming the deadline, President Obama rejected a permit for the project earlier this month because the State Department had recently decided to push back its final decision another year to allow officials in Nebraska time to explore alternative pipeline routes that avoid environmentally sensitive areas and a large freshwater aquifer.
Lugar's bill would allow TransCanada to begin construction in other states while Nebraska works to find an alternate route.
Obama said the rejection was not based on "merits" of the project, and in the past week, the president unveiled plans to expand domestic oil and gas production that include leasing 38 million underwater acres in the Gulf of Mexico.
On Sunday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told ABC news that the House would attach similar pipeline approval legislation to an infrastructure and jobs bill that will be introduced next week.
The GOP's Pipeline Politics -
The Republican obsession with the Keystone pipeline is exacerbating a political headache for Obama and fellow Democrats, whose voter base is split on the issue, with environmental groups and climate activists opposed to the pipeline and some labor unions supporting it.
Putting a bill on Obama's desk that would approve the pipeline could force the president to take a position on the controversial project during an election year. A veto would give the GOP more ammo to call Obama a job killer, who canceled a infrastructure project during tough economic times, but signing the bill would enrage the environmental movement that brought thousands to the White House to protest the pipeline last year.
When asked about the pipeline approval bill, White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters on Monday that he had no opinion on legislation that "may or may not come to pass" and took the opportunity to blame Republicans for politicizing the project and creating a deadline that forced Obama to reject it.
Neil Brown, a spokesperson for Senator Lugar, said the Keystone XL pipeline is worth supporting regardless of the surrounding politics.
"If you look at the numbers, it speaks for itself," said Brown, who pointed out that it's better to get oil from Canada than from politically unstable oil producing countries.
The pipeline would transport 830,000 barrels of oil a day, most of it heavy crude extracted from the Alberta tar sands, a process climate activists and environmentalists also oppose.
Lugar and his colleagues continue to claim the project would create 20,000 jobs, a number under heavy debate in the media. Independent researchers at Cornell University estimated the pipeline would directly create about 2,500 to 6,000 temporary construction jobs.
Big Oil's Deep Pockets -
Here's some other numbers to consider: the oil and gas industry is the top contributor to the campaign committees of Lugar's top co-sponsors, with Senator Vitton receiving $523,850 and Senator Hoeven receiving $263,289 since 2007.
At a protest at Boehner's district office in Ohio last week, environmentalists pointed out that the House speaker, who has hammered Obama for rejecting the pipeline, has received $1.2 million in contributions from "dirty" energy firms connected to coal, oil and gas production. According to Boehner's 2010 financial disclosure forms, filed last year, the speaker had $10,000 to $50,000 in investments in several energy firms involved in Alberta tar sands extraction, including Exxon Mobile and Canadian Natural Resources.
"It's quite amazing to watch how Capitol Hill works - to realize that many of these guys are less public servants and more employees of the oil industry," said author and 350.org founder Bill McKibben, who organized protests against the pipeline. "Two weeks ago the head of the American Petroleum Institute promised 'huge political consequences' if Obama didn't do what they wanted, and now they're trying to make good on the threat."
The bill that would approve the pipeline has 44 co-sponsors. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia is currently the only Democrat on the list.
Comment compilation from original web posting:
Pipelines are construction projects that require due process of review by appropriate governmental agencies and the public. Furthermore, the proposed Keystone XL pipeline is not your ordinary pipeline. It is a 1,700-mile, $7 billion behemoth that would bring 700,000 barrels per day of carbon-heavy tar-sands oil from Alberta, Canada, to refineries on the Gulf Coast. Here are some disturbing facts:
1. Keystone XL is an export pipeline that will NOT reduce dependence on foreign oil, but transport cheap Canadian tar sands to American refineries on the Gulf Coast for tax-free export to markets in Europe and Latin America. Most of the refined fuel will never reach U.S. drivers' tanks. XL would not improve our energy security or independence from Mid-East oil imports, which can only be done through increased fuel efficiency.
2. Keystone XL WILL increase gas prices for Americans - especially farmers. It would remove the oversupply of discounted Canadian crude from U.S. Midwest markets, and provide an increase of billions in Canadian oil annual revenue. Per-gallon prices in the Midwest would rise by 20 cents/gallon, or 21% by 2013 from 2009 levels. This would be passed on to the public in the form of higher food prices.
3. TransCanada's jobs projections are vastly inflated. In South Dakota, of the construction jobs on the Keystone I pipeline (first phase of the system now bringing Alberta crude to Illinois), just 11% are estimated to be filled by South Dakotans - most of them for temporary, low-paying manual labor. Labor unions oppose XL, and call instead for jobs to repair, improve and expand water and sewage pipelines, bridges, tunnels, public transportation infrastructure, energy conservation and the electrical power grid that will help to reduce air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and improve energy efficiency. In short, XL will not boost local employment nor assure energy security.
4. A rupture in Keystone XL would cause a massive oil spill in America's agricultural heartland, over the source of fresh drinking water for 2 million people, and could devastate the environment. The U.S. Pipeline Safety Administration (PSA) has not yet conducted an in depth analysis of XL's safety. There have been 12 TransCanada spills on Keystone I in one year. Government-ordered tests indicated that defective steel may have been the cause. XL will cross the Missouri and Niobrara Rivers, the Ogallala aquifer, sage grouse habitat, walleye fisheries and more. PSA has not adequately accounted for threats to wildlife, increased pollution in distressed refinery communities, accelerated climate change and other issues.
5. Keystone XL will exacerbate North America's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. A Rockefeller Foundation report concluded that climate change, if not addressed, will be the greatest threat to national security. The State Department's Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) fails to adequately analyze XL's GHGs. Extraction and refinement of oil sands are more GHG-intensive than those of conventional oil. Although the EIS estimates that XL's annual GHGs could exceed those of Mideast crude by the equivalent of 2 to 4 coal-fired power plants, the EPA believes that the EIS estimate is short by as much as 20%. Thus, over its projected 50-year lifetime, XL could spew an extra 1.15 billion tons of GHGs into the atmosphere.
In short: The Keystone XL pipeline requires further review and deep study before being approved, if ever.
Tar sands producers are pushing for the type of “safety procedure waivers” provided to BP, prior to the Gulf disaster of last year. Additionally, TransCanada – the Keystone XL producer is seeking permission to pump tar sands oil at pressures EXCEEDING normal safety limits, while using pipes made from thinner steel than are the industry standard. Tar sands crude oil often causes “false pressure warnings in pipelines” making the identification of a true leak almost impossible. Tar sands oil is also thicker than conventional oil and has higher concentrations of heavy metals, which require higher concentrations of energy and water to separate the oil from the sands. According to the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) report tar sands contain:
“15 to 20 times higher acid concentrations than conventional crude oil, five to 10 times as much sulfur, high concentrations of chloride salts and higher concentrations of abrasive quartz sand particles.”
Furthermore, the NRDC report explains, “This combination of chemical corrosion and physical abrasion can dramatically increase the rate of pipeline deterioration.” (Source: Tar Sands Pipelines Safety Risks Report, February 2011) The Guardian Environmental Network explained further, “In order to get it to flow through pipelines, raw tar sands bitumen is diluted with natural gas condensate and then moved in heated pipelines under high pressure. The study (NRDC report) asserts that the higher temperatures and higher internal pipeline pressures can create gas bubbles within the pipelines, deform the metal and lead to ruptures caused by pressure spikes.” So, when you combine the more highly corrosive tar sands crude oil with thinner steel – you have a recipe for a blowout disaster. In fact … just another Canadian tar sands pipeline built by Enbridge, experienced such a rupture.
The Enbridge Lakehead Pipeline Rupture took place along what was been benignly labeled “Line 6B.” This line feeds into the Great Lakes in Michigan and the ramifications for additional water contamination are dire. The rupture wasn’t a pinhole or a few inches in diameter – it was six and one-half feet long and has gushed in excess of 800,000 gallons of tar sands crude into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River system. Enbridge asked permission to use the same type of thinner steel that TransCanada is seeking permission to use. To make matters worse, Enbridge had begun applying for a permit to operate this pipeline at higher pressures than is scientifically advised. In terms of government oversight regarding the engineering and scientific safety questions – the agency charged with pipeline regulations, namely the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), fails to differentiate between crude oil and tar sands oil safety requirements. PHMSA law governing transport of these two compounds requiring different treatment – views them as identical. Ironic how the TSA (Transportation Safety Administration) frets more over a cancer patient sporting a colostomy bag being a danger to a plane of passengers than they do concerning inadequate pipeline safety of toxic tar sands oil – containing enormous amounts of known toxics and carcinogens
Ahhh, and then there's the PIG (a robotic Pipeline Inspection Gauge) whose software has INTENTIONALLY flawed software to low ball any negative findings. Whistle blower pointed out the software problems, software stayed in. On purpose.