Alberta’s oil industry won a symbolic victory. President Trump calls his approval of the Keystone XL pipeline “a great day for jobs and energy independence” in the United States. Canada’s National Energy Board (NEB) admits the industry is not using its’ current pipeline capacity1 and adding more pipelines is “not consistent with the Paris Accord’s commitment to keep (Global) warming to two degrees Celsius, or its aspirational goal of limiting it to 1.5 degrees Celsius.”2 Approving the Keystone XL Pipeline is about our future on a planet where the scale and pace of extreme weather events is increasing.
“Canadian crude oil export pipelines are utilized at 85 to 90 per cent of their capacity … based on respective historical utilization rates.” – Canada’s Energy Future 2016, National Energy Board, p 92 ↩
Though both Washington and California call for rail companies to submit oil spill contingency plans, this is not yet a requirement in Oregon. Legislation was introduced in 2015, but the railway industry successfully lobbied against it. This could be changing. On Tuesday January 3, 2016, Oregon introduced legislation protecting communities against oil-by-rail spills.
There were good reasons to exempt railroads from local control when they were first built across North America, but that has changed. The railways might never have been built, if the had not been protected from a multitude of municipal taxes and regulations. There are different challenges today. The question is whether local communities have a right to decide what projects make sense for them. This is the central issue behind the council vote Tuesday night, when Whatcom County imposed 60 day moratorium on unrefined oil projects.