By Roy L Hales
A week has passed since Donald John Trump announced “the official approval of the presidential permit for the Keystone X L pipeline.” Disregarding opposition from local communities, Native Americans and environmentalists, Trump said “TransCanada will finally be allowed to complete this long over-due project with efficiency and with speed.” today a coalition of environmental groups opposing Trump’s Keystone XL pipeline decision responded by filing a lawsuit against the United States department of State.
Opposing Trump’s Keystone XL Pipeline Decision
Anthony Swift, Canada Project Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, explained, “The Trump Administration broke the law by arbitrarily endorsing a permit to build the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. It ignored public calls to update and correct a required environmental impact statement that should have led to one conclusion: Piping some of the dirtiest oil on the planet through America’s heartland would put at grave risk our land, water and climate.”
“They aren’t doing any new environmental review. They are relying on the 2014 environmental review which we would have challenged except the Obama administration made a ‘Not in the National Interest’ determination. Trump has made a full 180 turnabout and is saying it is in the national interest,” said Noah Greenwald, with the Center for Biological Diversity.1
“KXL still has no legal route through Nebraska; TransCanada has the burden to prove their proposed route is in the public interest. We do not believe they will be able to meet that burden,” said Ken Winston, Legal Counsel of the 92,000 member strong Nebraska based Bold Alliance, in a press release.
To which Marcia Keever, with Friends of the Earth, added, “We anticipate that TransCanada will work to move forward and this is just the first in much litigation that will be filed over the pipeline approval. We will definitely not only see litigation, but folks putting themselves on the line once any construction might start.”2
“Trump’s alternative facts and contempt for our environment won’t stand up in court,” said said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity.
Officials with the State Department and TransCanada told CBC News they do not comment on pending litigation.
Contribution to Climate Change
If approved, this pipeline is expected to produce at least 181 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) each year, the equivalent of tailpipe emissions from more than 37.7 million cars or 51 coal-fired power plants.
This is of little concern to President Trump, whose press secretary recently informed the public “We’re not spending money … (on climate change) anymore; we consider that to be a waste of your money to go out and do that.”
“That is a very short sighted comment. It also betrays the government’s loyalties to fossil fuel companies and speaks to theior lack of concern for the public interest. Considering that the effects of climate change are very dire for all of us economically, also in terms of public health and the environment, I feel we can not afford to address climate change,” said Kate French, Chair of Northern Plains Resource Council.3
Previous Oil Spills
The plaintiff’s complaint cited previous problems with pipelines spilling diluted bitumen from the tar sands:
“Two recent dilbit spills from pipelines have highlighted how costly and damaging such spills can be. A 2010 tar sands crude oil spill in Michigan’s Kalamazoo River led to a more than $1.2 billion cleanup effort, the most expensive oil pipeline cleanup in U.S. history. A 2013 spill in Mayflower, Arkansas contaminated an entire neighborhood and caused extensive health problems for residents, including headaches, nausea, fatigue, nosebleeds, bowel issues, and breathing problems.”
“Problems with a Keystone XL predecessor, the Keystone I pipeline, underscore the significant spill risks associated with crude oil pipelines. When it began shipping oil through Keystone I in June 2010, TransCanada claimed that “[c]onstruction and operation of the Keystone Pipeline system will continue to meet or exceed world class safety and environmental standards.” But in its first year of operation alone, Keystone I leaked at least fourteen times and was temporarily shut down by U.S. authorities. Canadian authorities recorded more than twenty spills and other accidents between June 2010 and July 2011.”4
“We were very, very concerned about the lack of an emergency action plan before (President Obama rejected the pipeline) and there still is no emergency action plan. I think more people are going to be activated this time around than there was before ,” said French.
Concerns Over Acquifers & Water Sources
She added, “Our major concern is water and pipeline breaks over water. This pipeline would cross the Missouri and the Yellowstone Rivers, which are very big rivers that support our agricultural community.” 5
According to the plaintiff’s complaint:
“Keystone XL also poses significant threats to the many hundreds of streams, rivers, lakes, aquifers, and wetlands it would cross, due to construction related impacts and the risk of oil spills during operation. Because tar sands crude oil is so heavy and viscous, spills are nearly impossible to clean up.
“The construction and operation of Keystone XL and its network of associated roads, power lines, and other facilities would harm the wildlife who live along its more than 1,200-mile route, including endangered species. Perhaps most alarming, an oil spill from Keystone XL could pollute aquifers and other precious water sources that supply drinking and irrigation water to millions of people.”6
Greenwald explained, “Nebraskan’s have been really upset about the pipeline because it goes through the Sandhills. It is also where the Edward’s aquifer is. The water table is very close to the surface and they are really concerned that an oil spill will pollute their water.”7
The Northern Plains Resource Council’ press release quotes some of its members:
“The pipeline is going to be under the Yellowstone River upstream about 13 miles from my farm. In July of 2015 we had a 12-inch pipeline break with devastating results; 30,000 gallons of crude oil went into the Yellowstone River then under the ice. The pipeline that Keystone is planning for the Yellowstone is three times the size. It’s a 36-inch pipeline. And I have seen what a 12-inch pipeline break does and I really don’t ever want to see the results of a break in a 36-inch pipeline. It goes under every major river in the state, lots of small streams, it goes under irrigation canals. It is just a disaster waiting to happen,” – Dena Hoff, an irrigated farmer on the Yellowstone River near Glendive.
Little Local Benefit
“America doesn’t need this pipeline. A foreign corporation looking for export opportunities does. President Trump was wrong to put our land, water, and communities at risk for a company that has never proven its jobs promises nor adequately explained its history of leaks and ruptures” – Darrell Garoutte, a rancher whose lands are directly in the pipeline’s route.
“We continue to meet Trump in the streets, and we look forward to meeting him in the courts to stop his reckless agenda that threatens our clean air and water and the climate. He was defeated – twice – when he tried implementing a Muslim ban; he was defeated when he tried to take health care away from 24 million Americans, and he will be defeated once again as he tries to force this pipeline on the people who have already seen its rejection. This movement has already defeated the Keystone XL pipeline, and we will do so once again,” said Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club.
Top Photo Credit: Keystone XL Hearing, Glendive MT Sept 2011 – courtesy Northern Plains Resource Council
- Roy L Hales interview with Noah Greenwald, from the Center for Biological Diversity ↩
- Roy L Hales interview with Marcia Keever, with Friends of the Earth ↩
- Roy L Hales interview with Kate French, Chair of Northern Plains Resource Council. ↩
- NORTHERN PLAINS RESOURCE COUNCIL, BOLD ALLIANCE, CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY, FRIENDS OF THE EARTH, NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL, INC., and SIERRA CLUB, Plaintiffs, v. THOMAS A. SHANNON, JR., in his official capacity as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs; UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF STATE; RYAN ZINKE, in his official capacity as Secretary of the Interior; UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR; and BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT, IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MONTANA GREAT FALLS DIVISION, Case 4:17-cv-00031-BMM, paragraphs 52 & 53 ↩
- Hales interview with Kate French ↩
- NORTHERN PLAINS RESOURCE COUNCIL et al v. THOMAS A. SHANNON JR et al. paragraphs 4&5 ↩
- Hales interview with Noah Greenwald ↩