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Is it Too Late to Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline?

Posted in Editorials on March 20th, 2013

In February, Adam and I went to a rally and march in Washington DC to protest the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. On March 8, a draft Environmental Impact Statement was released for the project. The deadline for public comment is this coming April 22 – Earth Day.

As I have some experience with Environmental Impact Statements and I am a hopeless wonk, I decided to look over the document and see if there was anything I could comment on. The Sierra Club has created a petition on their website urging people so sign it and tell the President not to approve the project, but I wanted to see if I could take more direct action.

I’ve read the executive summary and a few sections that interested me in the full document. What I have found is discouraging.

It’s much later in the process than I had originally thought. This is the second draft Environmental Impact Statement for the project, written to address the impacts of a new stretch of pipeline. The route of the original pipeline was the only thing objectionable enough for the project to not have been approved the first time.

The “no action” alternative assumes that the production and consumption of Tar Sands oil would remain unchanged. This seems like a giant assumption! It also seems to go against the spirit of the law. The no action alternative is meant to serve as a baseline/control measure, not as conjecture. This is also why the dEIS has been quoted as saying that Keystone XL is “unlikely to have an impact.” The document states that whether or not the project goes forward, there will be on impact on the rate of development of the Tar Sands – not climate change in general.

Obviously, a rebuttal to this point would be that the United States cannot control the actions of a Canadian corporation or the Canadian government. This is true, but I still find it highly disingenuous.

The dEIS also addresses Native American involvement in the project. Many Native American tribes were contacted and asked to participate in writing the dEIS and in identifying land they did not want the pipeline to go through. This seemed to be exactly the opposite of how the government was portrayed at the Forward On Climate rally. Leaders from several tribes spoke about how their wishes were being ignored and that they would be displaced by this project. After further research, most of these leaders were from Canada – and the dEIS does not have to address impact on Canadian First Nations people.

President Obama has recently announced that Environmental Impact Statements must address climate change. But because this document only applies to the pipeline itself, and not the burning of the oil it will transport – remember: it assumes that that oil will be burned no matter what happens, this announcement will not impact this project at all.

Bill McKibben has asked for people to call their Senators because another vote is going to be taken on the issue.

I’m trying to find some light at the end of the tunnel, some hope that this project can be stopped…and I got nothing. The Sierra Club, 350.org and others are moving public opinion, but not fast enough. The way the dEIS is written, with ridiculous assumptions that are apparently legal don’t leave any room for my objections. I wish I could say I trust the President to make the right decision, but I don’t.

One Response to “Is it Too Late to Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline?”

  1. Frank Lee Says:

    These protests and petitions are too little, too late. Such things are meaningless unless they are backed up by the threat of voting an official out. Since this president is now term-limited, he is immune to pressure from activists.

    In fact, this president is so uninterested in what environmentalists say that as they protested in DC last month, he was golfing with oilmen in Florida. The people had their chance to stop this pipeline on Nov. 6, but passed on electing an environmentalist president, and should now accept the consequences.

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