alberta oil sands

Mon, 2012-01-23 21:38Steve Horn
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Demise of Keystone XL Means More Bakken Shale Gas Flaring

Damned if we do, damned if we don't - this is the CliffsNotes version of the ongoing Keystone XL pipeline debate. President Barack Obama recently halted TransCanada's proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline project, which would bring tar sands crude, or dilluted bitumen (“dilbit”) from Alberta through the heart of the U.S., to Gulf Coast refineries near Port Arthur, Texas, where the oil would then be exported to the global market.

Most environmental organizations declared victory and suggest the Keystone XL pipeline is dead. Unfortunately, this is far from the case. Republican House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) recently told The Hill he may attempt to rope the pipeline into the next payroll tax extension. Furthermore, a recent Congressional Research Services (CRSpaper said that under a little-used Consitutional clause, the two chambers of Congress, rather than the White House, could have the final say on the pipeline's ultimate destiny. CRS explained, 

[I]f Congress chose to assert its authority in the area of border crossing facilities, this would likely be considered within its Constitutionally enumerated authority to regulate foreign commerce.

Because the pipeline crosses the U.S.-Canada border, many thought that the U.S. State Department, and by extension the White House, had the final say in the manner. This may no longer be true.

On the other hand, even if the Keystone XL becomes a “pipe dream,” the grass isn't necessarily greener on the other side.

Thu, 2011-09-01 02:50Brendan DeMelle
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Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline Action Page

Below is a compilation of fact sheets, information resources and action items from environmental groups, governments and other groups surrounding the Keystone XL pipeline and the Canadian tar sands. Please contact us or comment below if you know of additional resources we should add to this page.

TarSandsAction.org - Coalition organizing the White House protest and a 10,000+ strong petition urging President Obama to say no to the Keystone XL pipeline.

Friends of the Earth's Keystone XL pipeline resource page, petition and report “Dirty Business: How TransCanada Pipelines bullies farmers, manipulates oil markets, threatens fresh water and skimps on safety in the United States.”

NRDC's Stop Dirty Fuels: Tar Sands - Fact sheets about tar sands, Switchboard blogs on the Keystone XL pipeline, and a BioGems petition to stop the Keystone XL pipeline.

National Wildlife Federation's Keystone XL Pipeline page and Tar Sands page- numerous fact sheets on Keystone XL and tar sands.

Wed, 2011-03-16 17:23Michael Fisher
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Alberta Government Agrees Environmental Impact of Tar Sands Warrants Further Investigation

A report released by the Water Monitoring Data Review Committee earlier this month refuted previous Alberta Environment and industry studies on the serious threat of water contamination stemming from tar sands operations.

Environment Minister Rob Renner responded by promising to work to create a “better, more transparent and credible monitoring system in Alberta” that would assess the impacts of tar sands development on the Athabasca watershed. Renner’s tune has changed since declaring that heavy metals and other pollutants were naturally-occurring in the river, a view supported by the industry-funded Regional Aquatics Monitoring Program (RAMP) study.

Mon, 2011-03-14 18:40Brendan DeMelle
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Major Investigative Series Into US-Canada Tar Sands Politics Launched Today at The Tyee

Anyone concerned or simply intrigued by the controversy over Canada’s climate-wrecking tar sands needs to check out The Tyee homepage every day for the next few weeks. The Tyee’s tar sands investigative reporter Geoff Dembicki today released the first installment of his upcoming series exploring the intense lobbying battles taking place right now in Washington, D.C. over the future of tar sands development vis-a-vis the United States’ oil addiction.

Today’s installment was mainly a teaser about what is to come in the series, which will begin in earnest tomorrow with Dembicki’s report on the one-on-one interview he conducted with former Republican congressman Tom Corcoran, who is now a major lobbyist working to convince U.S. lawmakers to embrace Canadian tar sands as a source of non-Middle-Eastern oil.

Mon, 2011-02-21 13:56TJ Scolnick
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Canada Bullying The European Union Over Tar Sands, Threatening To Scuttle Trade Agreement

Canada is using Alberta’s dirty tar sands as an excuse to bully the European Union (EU) into watering down its climate change policies, leaving the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) in serious doubt.

This brewing transatlantic dispute over the tar sands stems from the likelihood that the EU could officially block the sale of Alberta oil in Europe given its high carbon content. 

The European Commission is reportedly “readying its defenses for a legal fight with Canada.”

Mon, 2011-01-31 01:02Emma Pullman
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Groups File Appeal Over State Department’s Refusal to Disclose Communications with Tar Sands Oil Lobbyist

Three watchdog groups filed an appeal today with the U.S. State Department over its refusal to release correspondence between the agency and a former high-ranking presidential campaign staffer for Hillary Clinton.  In his role as oil lobbyist, Paul Elliott is seeking Secretary of State Clinton’s approval for the controversial Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline that would bring 900,000 barrels of tar sands a day over 2,000 miles through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

The coalition, including Friends of the Earth, the Center for International Environmental Law, and Corporate Ethics International submitted a FOIA request in December [PDF] targeted at Elliott, now lead lobbyist for TransCanada, the company aiming to build the pipeline.  The request was rejected by the State Department, and Marcie Keever, legal director for Friends of the Earth, believes that the State Department did not have legitimate legal grounds to do so. 

For the groups, the failure of the State Department to comply with its responsibility under the Freedom of Information Act is worrying, and further calls into question Clinton’s capacity to remain impartial on the pipeline decision.

By refusing to disclose any documents, we contend that the State Department is violating the Freedom of Information Act,” said Keever.  “We are hopeful that with this appeal the State Department will release communications between the oil lobbyist and Secretary Clinton and her staffers.  If the agency doesn’t, we will take it to court if necessary.”

Mon, 2011-01-17 13:58Emma Pullman
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Why We Need to Stop Calling Tar Sands Oil "Ethical Oil"

There are few terms in the Canadian vernacular that irk me more than “ethical oil”.  Since Ezra Levant’s 2010 book “Ethical Oil” hit the scene, it’s become the favourite language for government newspeak, and the media.  Worst of all, its given tar sands proponents and the Conservative Government fodder for their debunked argument that tarsands oil is good for us

Levant’s book looks at the ethical cost of our addiction to oil, and argues that Alberta tar sands oil is more ethically responsible than oil imported from despotic regimes in the Sudan, Russia, and Mexico, where human rights issues are of concern. 

Though neither Harper nor our new Minister of Environmental Destruction have read the book, the term was exactly what the Conservatives needed to bolster the much-maligned tar sands.  Prior to the echochamber that ensued after the publication of Levant’s book,  tar sands oil was often characterized as “dirty” and “controversial” - much to the ire of the government.

 Levant may well have learned the art of spin early in his career while spending the summer in an internship arranged by the libertarian and clean energy/climate change enemy Charles G. Koch Foundation, or through his work with the Fraser Institute.  Levant himself coined the term “ethical oil” in 2009 after being involved in a panel on tar sands oil.  The spin doctor finished the 90-minute debate having not managed to convince his audience of the merits of the toxic oil.  Without admitting defeat, Levant quickly realized that he was going to have to find a different way to spin the dirty oil apart from economic arguments which just weren’t resonating with people. 

Wed, 2010-12-15 16:27Emma Pullman
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Groups Question Clinton Ties to Oil Lobby & Impact on State Department Keystone Tar Sands Pipeline Decision

A coalition of organizations composed of Friends of the Earth, the Center for International Environmental Law, and Corporate Ethics International submitted a Freedom of Information Act request [PDF] this week asking for all communications between the agency and a former presidential campaign manager for Hillary Clinton.

Paul Elliot, the lobbyist in question, served as national deputy director and chief of staff for delegate selection for Clinton’s Presidential campaign committee.  He’s now a lobbyist for TransCanada, the company aiming to build the controversial 2,151 mile-long Keystone XL Pipeline.  

The above organizations are concerned about how the relationship between Secretary of State Clinton and Elliot may impact the approval process for the controversial tar sands pipeline.  For the coalition of watchdog organizations, this is just the latest in a series of developments that cast doubt on whether the State Department is fulfilling its obligations to conduct an exhaustive and transparent review of the environmental and public health dangers of the proposed pipeline.

Tue, 2010-12-14 12:18Emma Pullman
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Legislation Introduced To Ban Oil Tanker Traffic On B.C.’s North Coast

Today, Vancouver Quadra Liberal MP and former B.C. Environment Minister Joyce Murray introduced legislation in Canada’s House of Commons that would formally ban oil tanker traffic in B.C.’s North Coast.  Bill C-606 comes days after a successful House of Commons motion demonstrated support for a legislated ban on oil tankers.

Though the motion carried, the victory was only bittersweet because the motion passed is not binding, and merely calls on the Tory government to legislate a formal ban.  The Conservative government maintains that a ban is unnecessary since a long-standing, informal moratorium on oil tanker traffic and all offshore oil and gas activity has been in effect since 1972.  Yet last year, the Harper government quietly affirmed that it is not legally bound to maintain a moratorium on oil drilling off the coast of British Columbia.  The government determined that the 1972 ban doesn’t technically apply to oil-tanker traffic.  To date, eight Canadian prime ministers have upheld the moratorium, but that could all change.  The B.C. government is currently lobbying the federal Conservative government to revoke the ban.  Opposition parties fear the Tory government will allow the ban to be lifted in order to profit from growing Asian energy markets.

Tue, 2010-12-07 17:26Emma Pullman
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Canada Votes to Ban Tar Sands Oil Tankers off BC Coast; Enbridge Front Group Exposed

Today, Canada’s House of Commons approved a motion calling for a permanent ban on oil tankers off British Columbia’s coast.  The passed NDP motion introduced by MP Nathan Cullen urges the government to immediately propose legislation to “ban bulk oil tanker traffic” through the Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound, off the north coast of B.C. The bill received Parliamentary support in a tight a vote of 143-138, with all opposition parties supporting it and Conservatives opposed.

British Columbia is now one step closer to having a full legislated ban on supertankers off its north and central coasts. The opposition is sending a clear message to the Conservatives to legislate a formal moratorium. 

Today’s ban could seriously impact Enbridge, who has plans to develop a $5.5 billion 1,170-kilometre pipeline to carry dirty tar sands bitumen to Kitimat, B.C., where it would be loaded onto supertankers bound for growing energy markets in Asia.

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