On Tuesday, the Center for Media and Democracy released a new short film that sets out to debunk the many false claims — the films calls them “pipeLIES” — used by promoters of the Keystone XL pipeline. These industry talking points, many of which are repeated without verification by mainstream media sources, have corrupted any reasonable public discourse on the pipeline, and the film's producers hope that using the video medium to expose the mistruths will lead to better public understanding of the true risks of the pipelines.
The film, Keystone PipeLIES Exposed, takes a close and critical look at both ends of the proposed pipeline — from the open pit tar sands mines in Alberta to the toxic refineries in Port Arthur, Texas. But the meat of the 23-minute film looks at the pipeline itself — the route, the construction jobs, the spill risks, the communities and ecosystems that would be made vulnerable.
While traveling down the pipeline, so to speak, the film pays special attention to the talking points and falsehoods — the massively inflated job creation claims, promises of lower gas prices, and so on — that are constantly repeated by those who stand to profit from the pipeline's construction, and often by a mainstream media too lazy to verify them.
Emmy Award-winning journalist Dave Saldana wrote, directed and produced the film. Saldana is also an attorney, and says this background was particularly useful in exploring and debunking many of the oil industry's suspicious claims. Saldana says:
I looked at the claims as a lawyer; what did the evidence show me? The evidence shows that its job creation claims are grossly inflated; that better, greener alternatives would aid America's energy independence and put more Americans to work for a longer time than the pipeline; and that the pumping of tar sands oil across the U.S. primarily for export to foreign countries poses enormous risks to America's water supply, food supply, and air quality. And that’s before you even get to what it does to climate change.”
Here's the film. You can also check out the PipeLIES Exposed site to find references for all the arguments debunking the lies.
Recent revelations that Canada’s top spy watchdog Chuck Strahl is also a paid lobbyist for Enbridge and Northern Gateway Pipelines have Canadians in a rightful tizzy. The implications are grim, especially for citizens already concerned with federal overreach in the surveillance of environmental groups opposing the Enbridge's Northern Gateway oil pipeline and tanker proposal for B.C.'s coast.
Strahl is the federally appointed chairman of the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC), an independent and non-partisan oversight agency designed to keep an eye on all activities of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS).
In November the Vancouver Observer released internal documents showing the federal government, the RCMP and CSIS had been working closely with the energy industry to address the issue of pipeline opposition and other barriers to energy development. Cross-sector responses between government and industry included the monitoring of environmental groups.
Lorne Sossin, dean of the Osgoode Law School at York University and specialist in constitutional law, regulation of professions and public policy, told DeSmog while Strahl may not be using his role as CSIS watchdog to advance the interests of Enbridge, the overlap of roles poses some threat to his perceived ability to perform as an independent adjudicator.
The city of South Portland, Maine banned the export of oilsands crude from local port facilities this week.
Portland, the suburban community of 25,000 is the Atlantic terminal of the Portland Montreal Pipe Line, which currently carries millions of barrels of oil from the coast to refineries in Montreal. The city council is currently seeking to draft a law that would ban Portland Pipe Line Corp. from using Portland facilities to move western crude to the eastern seaboard.
“We applaud the City Council for their strong leadership in standing up to the oil industry,” said Roberta Zuckerman of Protect South Portland, a citizens group, told the Financial Post. “But now the City Council must turn the temporary ban on shipping tar sands out of our city into permanent legal protections.”
Of all the elections and ballot measures voted on around the country on Tuesday, perhaps the most egregious example of the fossil fuel industry’s money influencing an outcome was seen in South Portland, Maine.
Voters in the coastal city were deciding whether to approve a ballot item that would have essentially prevented the loading of tar sands crude onto ships in the South Portland harbor.
The proposed Waterfront Protection Ordinance, which appeared on the ballot after the Protect South Portland citizens group gathered enough signatures this past Spring, was voted down by less than 200 votes, out of 8,714 total votes cast.
In the months leading up to the vote, local residents were bombarded with media and direct mail campaigns opposing the ordinance. The week before the election, campaign finance reports revealed that the oil industry had pumped over $600,000 into ads and mailings opposing the measure.
The Save Our Working Waterfront campaign received most of its funding from big oil companies and industry groups like Citgo, Irving, and the American Petroleum Institute. A good chunk of the money raised - $123,427 to be exact - was used to hire the Maryland-based consultancy DDC Advocacy, which advertises its ability to organize online campaigns and “local grassroots” advocacy.
Contrast that $600,000 with the roughly $100,000 raised by the three local groups, including Protect South Portland, to support the ordinance.
According to Crystal Goodrich, who organized the door-to-door campaign efforts for Protect South Portland, the oil industry spent more per voter - about $32 per voter in this town of just 19,000 voters - than in even the most expensive elections across the country. “The oil industry bought this election at more than $135 per vote,” said Goodrich, calculating the cost for each “no” vote.
A decision on the proposed northern half of the Keystone XL pipeline - under review since 2008 - hinges on a final environmental review by the State Department now taking into consideration the importance oil-by-rail transport might have on growth of Alberta's tar sands.
US officials are evaluating the impact Keystone XL will have on expansion of the tar sands and whether or not the pipeline will worsen climate change. According to a new report by Reuters the evaluation has created a balancing test, “zeroing in on the question of whether shipment by rail is a viable alternative to the controversial project.”
The test's crux: “if there is enough evidence that the oil sands region will quickly grow with or without the 1,200-mile line, that would undercut an argument from environmentalists that the pipeline would turbocharge expansion,” Reuters reports.
The international pipeline safety expert who last August described Enbridge’s Line 9 pipeline as “high risk for a rupture” now says the probability of Line 9 rupturing is “over 90%.”
“I do not make the statement ‘high risk for a rupture’ lightly or often. There are serious problems with Line 9 that need to be addressed,” Richard Kuprewicz, a pipeline safety expert with over forty years of experience in the energy sector, said in an interview with DeSmog Canada.
Kuprewicz also expressed concerns about transporting diluted bitumen through Line 9 saying it will increase the growth rates of cracks on the pipeline. Line 9 lies in the most populated part of Canada and crosses the St. Lawrence River and major waterways flowing into Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. A Line 9 spill could pollute the drinking water of millions of Canadians.
Julia Trigg Crawford is one of a handful of Texas property owners waging a fierce battle against the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline. Her fight began in August 2011, when she turned down TransCanada’s final offer for an easement across her family’s 650-acre farm in Direct, Texas. TransCanada took her to court to get the easement, claiming their right to eminent domain, a claim Crawford challenges.
Once she jumped into the ring, she found she was fighting not just for herself, but for all American property owners and the planet too.
In the cases of Texas landowners vs. TransCanada, TransCanada didn’t have to prove it was serving the common good, or follow the statutes to declare its right to eminent domain. Nor did they have to prove it was a common carrier to get a T-4 permit from the Texas Railroad Commission, giving them the right to operate a pipeline in Texas. To get a T-4 permit all TransCanada did was check a box saying it is a common carrier: a designation for pipelines used by others, ultimately serving the greater good.
With the Texas Railroad Commission rubber stamping permits, TransCanada was able to move forward without any questions from the U.S. government.
Crawford says, “TransCanada said they were a common carrier, and since no landowner had yet challenged them, and the Railroad Commission didn't seem to care enough to investigate, they got to proceed like they were, picking up the club of eminent domain along the way. Crawford says. : That was the situation when TransCanada came knocking on our doors.”
As their proposed Keystone XL pipeline faces ever-increasing opposition – and as the State Department continues to push back official decisions on whether to approve the pipeline's permit – TransCanada has turned at least some of their attention east. The Canadian company has proposed and is now seeking permission to build out their so-called Energy East pipeline system (which DeSmogBlog has covered here), which would funnel tar sands crude from Hardisty, Alberta to refineries in Saint John, New Brunswick, on a point of land jutting out into the Bay of Fundy. The project would involve converting roughly 1,864 miles of natural gas to handle diluted bitumen and constructing roughly 870 miles of new pipeline from the Ontario-Quebec border to the coastal refinery. In all, Energy East would travel over 2,700 miles across Canada, through hundreds of cities and townships and across hundreds of rivers and streams.
To sell the Energy East vision to the communties that could potential be affected by a Kalamazoo or Mayflower-type of spill, TransCanada has foregone the “town hall” model – where concerned citizens or community activists can take the floor to raise concerns – instead opting for an open house, “trade show” model of community meeting, where TransCanada reps take their talking points and shiny PR materials directly to attendees in one-on-one settings.
TransCanada Corp. announced yesterday they will proceed with plans to create a pipeline capable of shipping 1.1 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil and tar sands bitumen from western Canada to refineries and ports in Quebec and New Brunswick. Called “Energy East”, this west-to-east pipeline would dwarf the oil delivery capacity of TransCanada's proposed Keystone XL pipeline in the US (830,000 bpd).
The premiers of Alberta and New Brunswick declared Energy East a “nation building” pipeline. The pipeline will pass through Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick.
“This is an historic opportunity to connect the oil resources of western Canada to the consumers of eastern Canada, creating jobs, tax revenue and energy security for all Canadians for decades to come,” said Russ Girling, TransCanada's president and chief executive officer, in a statement.
Last week marked the third anniversary of the largest inland oil spill in US history. On July 25th, 2010 a 41-year old Enbridge pipeline in Michigan tore open spewing over three million litres of diluted tar sands bitumen or dilbit from Alberta into the Kalamazoo River and the surrounding area. Three years later the spill from the Enbridge pipeline known as Line 6B is still being cleaned up with the cost nearing one billion US dollars.
The Kalamazoo spill drew wide spread attention to the dangers of shipping dilbit through North America's oil pipeline system. Now environmental organizations and residents of Ontario and Quebec fear Enbridge's plan to ship dilbit from Sarnia, Ontario to Montreal, Quebec through the 37-year old Line 9 pipeline. They worry this will put their communities at the centre of the next 'dilbit disaster.'
“What happened at Kalamazoo could happen here with Line 9,” says Sabrina Bowman a climate campaigner with Environmental Defence based in Toronto.
“People in Ontario and Quebec need to know the Line 9 pipeline is very similar in age and design to the ruptured Line 6B in Kalamazoo,” Bowman told DeSmog Canada.
Democracy is utterly dependent upon an electorate that is accurately informed. In promoting climate change denial (and often denying their responsibility for doing so) industry has done more than endanger the environment. It has undermined democracy.
There is a vast difference between putting forth a point of view, honestly held, and intentionally sowing the seeds of confusion. Free speech does not include the right to deceive. Deception is not a point of view. And the right to disagree does not include a right to intentionally subvert the public awareness.