As the clock ticks down before President Obama’s final decision on whether to approve the controversial XL Pipeline, reasons to oppose the project continue to surface. Because it crosses the U.S. boundary with Canada, the process of approving (or not approving) the pipeline’s construction is run by the State Department, which will make a final recommendation to the President, reportedly by the end of this year.
The 1,700 mile long pipeline would run from the tar sands of Canada to refineries in Texas. Environmentalists oppose the project on the grounds that fuel’s extraction and transportation endangers the atmosphere, the ecosystems and the aquifers of the land it would cross. In addition to the environmental damage, critics are now calling out the validity of the approval process itself as well as whether the pipeline would actually reduce American dependence on foreign oil, which has been a major argument in favor of the project.
1. Lobbying As Usual
A series of emails requested by the NGO Friends of the Earth under the Freedom of Information Act shows a warm relationship between Trans Canada’s lobbyist and State Department officials. The New York Times reports that an official at State Department gave “Fourth of July party invitations, subtle coaching and cheerleading, and inside information about Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton’s meetings” to the Trans Canada lobbyist in Washington. An FOE spokesman claims the emails show “an absolute bias and complicity between the State Department and TransCanada, a company they are supposed to be acting as a regulator and an independent investigator on.”
2. State Department Hires Firm with Trans Canada Connections
The State Department was responsible for conducting Environmental Impact Statements and public hearings in the states where the pipeline would be built to gather public comment. The firm that State hired to conduct the environmental impact process, Cardno Entrix, lists Trans Canada as a client.
3. The Oil Isn’t Staying Here
The State Department is involved in the pipeline approval process because the project is ostensibly a matter of national security. Yet a new report from Oil Change International states that the oil from the pipeline, after being pumped 1,700 miles across North America, would be refined in the U.S. and sold abroad and will do nothing to wean Americans off foreign oil dependence; its primary purpose is to give the Canadian producers easier access to overseas markets via a tax-free trade zone in Port Arthur, Texas. Oil Change International Executive Director Steven Kretzmann states, “An honest assessment shows that rather than serving U.S. interests, Keystone XL serves only the interests of tar sands producers and shippers, and a few Gulf Coast refiners aiming to export the oil.”
U.S. national security depends on weaning the US and other countries off fossil fuel dependence. Caving in to the interests of businesses like Trans Canada and oil refineries is merely delaying the inevitable shock of peak oil and diverting time and resources from the search for truly sustainable energy.
A major protest is being planned for November 6 in Washington by Tar Sands Action.
Tell the State Department directly that the XL Pipeline is not in the national interest on their website here.
Photo of XL Pipeline protest in Minneapolis, Sept. 26, 2011 by Fibonacci Blue, CC license via Flickr