keystone

U.S. Chamber Of Commerce Launches Campaign To Lobby For Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline

keystone pipeline keystone xl

Last Friday, after applauding the House’s vote to rush a decision on TransCanada Corp’s Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched a new campaign to boost the controversial project. The Partnership to Fuel America is run out of the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy, and seems positioned to be the U.S. Chamber’s main influence channel to drum up support for Keystone XL. Supportive comments aside, it’s also the first time the U.S. Chamber has so publicly and overtly aligned with the Canadian company’s project.

The launch comes at a pivotal moment for Keystone XL. The Obama administration has the final say in approving the pipeline, and they’ve said the decision will be made by the end of the year. The new House legislation declared that the Obama administration must make the call by November 1st. A final environmental review of the prospective project is expected from the State Department in August. (To learn more about how tar sands pipelines like Keystone XL are a much greater risk than normal crude pipelines, see my earlier post.)

The Many Problems With Tar Sands Pipelines

Enbridge tar sands pipeline spill Kalamazoo River Michigan

Note: This post is part of an ongoing series about North American pipelines. For an introduction and links to the wide-ranging coverage–from safety to legal issues to the business and economics to vulnerabilities–see this regularly-updated intro post.

On Monday, the House passed a bill that would force the Obama administration to make a final decision on TransCanada’s controversial Keystone XL pipeline by November 1. The Keystone XL project (which regular DeSmogBlog readers should be familiar with) would funnel tar sands oil from Alberta’s massive reserves down to Gulf Coast refineries in Texas.

This isn’t the place to discuss in too much depth the various and plentiful problems with Alberta tar sands itself – from extraction to transportation to refining to combustion, it’s the dirtiest oil on the planet. From a climate perspective, the Alberta tar sands contain enough carbon to lock the planet into climate chaos. In the words of NASA climatologist Jim Hansen, “if the tar sands are thrown into the mix it is essentially game over.”

Because Keystone XL is so controversial, and because its construction could be such a tipping point in the climate fight, a broad and diverse coalition of scientists and activists are digging in their heels for a big fight, and planning a multi-week action at the White House. (Here’s more on how to get involved.)

But since this is a post about pipelines, I’m going to focus on how tar sands pipelines are different than those that carry conventional crude, how they’re much more prone to leaks and spills, and how those spills are particularly bad for the environment.

TransCanada says Their Eleventh Leak Proves Keystone is Safe

UPDATE: The 1,600 figure we reported yesterday was an early and apparently erroneous estimate. The most recent figure, from The National Response Center, is closer to 8,000 litres. According to the Montreal Gazette, over 110,000 litres of oil have spilled along TransCanada’s Keystone line in the last year alone.

Today, TransCanada shut down its Keystone oil pipeline following its second pump station leak in less than a month. The most recent spill dumped nearly 1,600 litres of oil at a pumping station in Kansas over the weekend. With two spills in the last month, and ten more over the course of the last year, how can TransCanada convince U.S. authorities to trust the safety of its controversial expansion plans?  

As DeSmogBlog recently reported, spills are far more common than industry would have us realize. A 2007 report by the Alberta Energy Utilities Board recorded a whopping 5,000 pipeline spills between 1990 and 2005 in Alberta alone

The string of spills over the past year have only heightened public worries about the safety of North America’s vast pipeline network, and provide evidence that the proposed Keystone XL and Northern Gateway lines should be blocked.

The Montreal Gazette reports that over 110,000 litres of oil have spilled along TransCanada’s Keystone line in the last year.

To top it all off, TransCanada has somehow managed to spin its treacherous spill record and suggest - and you’re not going to believe this - that it’s doing a great job.

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