Keystone XL Pipeline

Forward on Climate Rally — February 17, 2013

It was clear and very cold at 5:00 AM when we left my brother’s house in Connecticut. He and my sister-in-law were nice enough to drive me to a White Plains, NY bus station where I joined a hundred and ten others for the long ride to Washington, DC. on buses chartered by the WESPAC Foundation. Janet and David Muir were on a bus that left Syracuse at 4:30 that morning.  The Syracuse bus included a group of ESF students and a group representing the Onondaga Nation.

Maryanne with five amazing activists whom she met on the WESPAC bus from Westchester, NY.

Maryanne with five amazing activists whom she met on the WESPAC bus from Westchester, NY.

Individuals representing groups from all over the country gathered on the National Mall next to the Washington Monument to listen to speeches and to persuade President Obama that approving the Keystone XL pipeline was NOT in the best interest of the country. No one knew how many people would show up in Washington on that cold February day, but it was gratifying that more than 40,000 people of all ages were there to express their concerns. As Janet says, “It was a fantastic day — fantastically cold too! .” Janet and David arrived early enough to join the New Yorkers’ rally against fracking. As they marched into the main rally, the New Yorkers Against Fracking formed a good-sized group with many signs urging Cuomo to ban fracking.

Multiple news sources describe the speakers and summarize their messages. If you’d like to view video footage of the rally including the speakers, the crowd, and the march to the Whitehouse, visit 350.org/ForwardOnClimateLivestream. To read a story about the day, I recommend the article by Dina Sciortino, “Westchester Residents Attend Largest Climate Change Rally to Date,” published in RivertownsPatch. It provides an explanation of the urgency of the climate change issue, the national sponsors behind the rally, and the connection to TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline.

For me, the ride to and from Washington was not very taxing. I was back in White Plains by 10:00 PM on Sunday night, only one hour away from my bed at my brother’s. Janet and David, on the other hand, boarded their bus at 4:30 PM Sunday and got back at 4:30 AM Monday. They were stuck on Route 81 in a standstill after an accident near — of all places — Frackville, PA from 9:40 PM until 12:40 AM when the bus driver backed them up to an exit. The police had already led all cars off the highway, but the semis and the bus from Syracuse were still there. They didn’t plan to reopen the highway until 4 AM! So, once they were off 81, a volunteer ambulance led them through some small towns and back to 81 (about 5-10 miles).

Now that we are back home, we have time to read the accounts of and reactions to the events of this past Sunday. We can only hope that President Obama was paying attention.

Maryanne Adams 2.22.2013

2/17/13 Forward on Climate Rally, Washington, DC

Next Sunday, three OAS members will be making the trip tp Washington to participate in what may be the largest climate rally in history.  David and Janet Muir and I will be joining thousands of other concerned citizens who want to convince President Obama to reject the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline. It is time for him to take action on climate change and to prove that he is for real about it. The President has the power to stop this project – if he wants to.                
 
Personally, I am going because I think that the development of the oil sands in Alberta, Canada is unconscionable and a crime against nature.  Boreal forest is being turned into moonscape - inhospitable to all forms of life and deadly to many. Four tons of sand and soil are removed and dumped for each barrel of oil mined from the tar sands. Pools of toxic waste from the mining process are left accessible to migrating birds.  Along the Athabasca River in northern Canada, impoundments contain an astounding 187 billion gallons of toxic sludge and cover 80 square miles of what was once pristine boreal forest and wetland. (This is not surprising as it takes three barrels of water to extract one barrel of oil and 400 million gallons of water are used every day (http;//www.foe/projects/climate-and-energy/tar-sands). 90% of this water ends up as waste. Environmental Defense calculates that one billion gallons of tailings waste containing chemicals like “phenols, arsenic, mercury, cancer-makers such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and fish-killing naphthenic acids” are leaching into groundwater and surface water annually(http://corpethics.org/article.php?id=2659). Visit this photographer’s website for many powerful images of what is happening http://www.beautifuldestruction.ca

Syncrude Canada paid a $3 million penalty for the deaths of 1,600 ducks in a tailings pond in April 2008. Then in October 2010, at least 230 more birds were euthanized after making contact with bitumen-extraction byproducts in Syncrude’s Mildred lake facility
(http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/story/10/26/edmonton-more-ducks-tailings-pond.html).

(Now, these are reported deaths. One would hate to speculate how many have gone unreported.)

 As disturbing as the negative impact from tar sand development on birds merely flying over might be, the impact due to loss of boreal forest breeding grounds is staggering. The full report may be downloaded from the following link: http://www.nrdc.org/wildlife/borealbirds.pdf. It’s title is “Danger in the Nursery: Impact on Birds of Tar Sands Oil Development in Canada’s Boreal Forest.” Last September I had the privilege of meeting the lead author, Jeff Wells, Ph.D. at Hog Island Audubon Camp. Dr. Wells is a remarkable individual who has done all he possibly can to preserve the forest in spite of the odds being against it. The report, published in December 2008, was part of the National Resource Defense Council’s (NRDC)
Boreal Songbird Initiative.

Rallying Against Fracking in Washington (photo-Janet and David Muir)

Rallying Against Fracking in Washington (photo-Janet and David Muir)

Here is a very disturbing summary of Dr. Wells’ findings from

http://www.treehugger.com/renewable-energy/166-million-birds-could-die-if-tar-sands-mining-continues-to-expand.html:

    It is estimated that half of America’s migratory birds nest in the
    Boreal forest, and each year 22-170 million birds breed in the area that
    could eventually be developed for tar sands oil. The report projects that the
    cumulative impact over the next 30-50 years could be as high as 166 million
    birds lost, including future generations… The report goes over the specific
    impacts on bird populations for tar sands projects, these include: Loss of up
    to 740,000 acres of forest and wetland habitat lost, continued bird deaths
    due to toxic tailing ponds, fragmentation of bird habitat, water withdrawals
    due to mining degrading wetlands, air and water toxin accumulation, increased
    global warming due to the high carbon intensity of tar sands sourced oil.

It was for all the aforementioned reasons that the NRDC recommended that a moratorium be placed on all new (tar sands) projects and expansions
(http://www.treehugger.com/renewable-energy…).

The approval of the KXL pipeline would speed up tar sand development because even more gallons of tar sand oil would have somewhere to go.
In addition to ecosystem destruction, tar sand development in Alberta is threatening thehealth and the way of life of the indigenous people of the area. Cancer, renal failure, lupus, and hyperthyroidism are on the increase in people downstream from tailing ponds(http://www.foe.org/projects/climate-and-energy/tar-sands).
 
For me, the destruction of boreal forest and the potentional annihilation of species that require this habitat for survival was enough to turn me against it.
But it goes farther than that. Further oil sands development will increase
the amount of carbon in the atmosphere and we are already finding out what effects a modest increase is having on the climate. For a detailed explanation of how the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline will increase carbon emissions,see:

http://www.pembina.org/pub/2407#.URzyW7NMCKg.email.

In closing, I wish to refer the reader to an article in The Nation that explains how President Obama’s decision about the KXL pipeline could affect the future. Michael T. Clare explains how in his convincing article: Keystone XL: A Presidential Decision That Could Change the World. I think he is absolutely correct. 
 
I don’t know if my presence at the Forward on Climate rally will make a difference to President Obama, but knowing that I tried to do something will make a difference to me.
 
Maryanne Adams
2.15.2013

 

“Processing the oil sands uses enough natural gas in a day to heat 3 million homes. Producing a barrel of oil from the oil sands produces three times more greenhouse gas emissions than a barrel of conventional oil” (www.billingsgazette.com, 1/1/12)

Tar sands site clearing - Alberta

According to the National Resources Defense Council Staff Blog, the Keystone XL pipeline will NOT improve the U.S. oil supply. At the present time, Canadian oil goes to refineries in the Midwest where the United States is their only buyer. If the Keystone XL pipeline were built, Canadian oil would no longer be processed for use within the United States. Instead, the crude oil would be diverted to refineries on the Gulf Coast, many of which are in free trade zones. Oil refined in these zones may be sold to foreign countries without paying U.S. taxes (switchboard.nrdc.org, 12/20/11). Valero, a potential buyer for a large amount of Keystone XL oil, has informed its investors that it plans to export the oil the pipeline would carry to the Gulf Coast.

In order to justify the construction of the Keystone Xl pipeline, the U.S. Congress tried to persuade TransCanada to agree to a requirement that oil transported by the pipeline be used in the United States. TransCanada refused, fearing repercussions when refineries backed out of their contracts. Valero has already told its investors that “its future business is in international exports” (switchboard.nrdc.org).
After investigating the effect that the Keystone XL pipeline would have on future energy supplies for the country, the Department of Energy concluded that “the United States will import the same amount of crude from Canada through2030 whether or not the Keystone XL is built” (switchboard.nrdc.org).

Onondaga Audubon members Janet Muir and Maryanne Adams at protest in Washington DC

The oil industry’s top lobbyist warned the Obama administration to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline or face huge political consequences in an election year. According to Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute (API), it would be a “huge mistake” for him (Obama) to reject the project. The President must decide by February 21 whether the 1,700-mile pipeline is in the national interest. The API has teamed with 15 labor unions that support the pipeline because they say that it would create thousands of jobs. (Huffington Post 1/4/12)

Estimates for the number of jobs that would be created by the construction of the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline vary greatly, depending upon who is doing the estimating. A posting by Glenn Kessler sheds some light on how these calculations are made. TransCanada Corp claims that 20,000 Americans could be put to work constructing the pipeline and with an additional 118,000 spin-off jobs due to increased local business for local restaurants, hotels, and suppliers. However, this estimate might be inflated. For example, using the “one person, one year” method of calculation, a projected total of 13,000 jobs means that 6,500 people would be employed for two years. The State Department’s final estimate is that building the pipeline would result in 5,000 to 6,000 construction jobs (www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/post/keystone-pipel, 12/14/11).

Tar sands industrial complex - Alberta

Read what Mike Klink, civil engineer and former employee of Bechtel (a company employed by TransCanada) has to say about how he lost his job after raising safety concerns when he saw corners being cut during the construction of TransCanada’s first pipeline. (www.journalstar.com/news/opinion/editorial/columnists/mike-klink-key, 12/31/11) Mr. Klink is currently seeking whistleblower protection from the U.S. Department of Labor.