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Green Light? State Department Tar Sands Report Sparks Outrage August 27, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Environment.
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Published on Friday, August 26, 2011 by Canadian Press

  by Lee-Anne Goodman

WASHINGTON – The U.S. State Department says TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline poses no major risks to the environment and will not spur further oilsands production in Alberta, moving the controversial project one step further to a final decision by the Obama administration.

The State Dept. report was not a surprise to the American environmental movement, for whom opposition to the pipeline has become a passionate rallying cry in the aftermath of failed climate change legislation last year. (Photo: Ben Powless for Tar Sands Action/CC BY)

Insisting repeatedly that its long-awaited assessment was “not a rubberstamp,” the department’s Kerri-Ann Jones said Friday there’s no evidence the pipeline will significantly impact the six U.S. states in its path as it carries crude from northern Alberta to Gulf Coast refineries in Texas.

“This is not the rubberstamp for this project,” said Jones, disputing several big American environmental groups who immediately decried it as such.

“The permit that is required for this project has not been approved or rejected at all … it should not be seen as a lean in any direction either for or against this pipeline. We are in a state of neutrality.”

Canadian officials intend to continue to develop technologies that will lessen the greenhouse gas emissions associated with oilsands production, according to the analysis.

“We are working closely with them,” Jones told a conference call in the U.S. capital. “We closely follow what’s going on in terms of international regulations in this area.”

She added that oilsands production will continue with or without the Keystone XL pipeline.

The Obama administration now has 90 days to determine whether the controversial project is in the national interest of the United States. In that determination, Jones said, State Department officials will consider the environmental assessment as well as the economic impact of the pipeline and “foreign policy concerns.”

The outcome wasn’t a surprise to the American environmental movement, for whom opposition to the pipeline has become a passionate rallying cry in the aftermath of failed climate change legislation last year.

Leading environmentalists say the State Department has refused to fully assess the risks.

The Natural Resources Defense Council accused the State Department of failing to study pipeline safety measures or examine alternate routes that would avoid the Ogallala aquifer in Nebraska, a crucial source of water in the state.

In fact, the State Department report said TransCanada needed to conduct more study, and possibly add more anti-spill precautions, around the aquifer.

Jones add that alternative routes had also been studied.

“We feel that the proposed route of the applicant is the preferred route … alternative routes were either worse or similar,” she said.

The NRDC’s Susan Casey-Lefkowitz expressed dismay at the State Department’s assessment in a statement.

“It is utterly beyond me how the administration can claim the pipeline will have ‘no significant impacts’ if they haven’t bothered to do in-depth studies around the issues of contention,” she said.

“The public has made their concerns clear and the administration seems to have ignored them. If permitted, the proposed Keystone XL tarsands pipeline will be a dirty legacy that will haunt President Obama and Secretary Clinton for years to come.”

Jim Lyon, senior vice-president of the National Wildlife Federation, said the analysis was “strike 3 for the State Department” after two “failed rounds” of environmental review and warned of legal woes ahead.

“The document still fails to address the key concerns for landowners and wildlife,” he said. “It is almost certain to be scrutinized in other venues, including a probable legal challenge. This only escalates the controversy in a process that is far from over.”

The State Department analysis comes as anti-pipeline activists continue a two-week civil disobedience campaign outside the White House.

More than 300 people, including Canadian actress Margot Kidder, have been arrested as they try to convince U.S. President Barack Obama to block the pipeline. As many as 54 more were arrested on Friday.

Environmental activists say Keystone XL is a disaster waiting to happen, pointing to several recent spills along pipelines, and are opposed to Alberta’s oilsands due to the high levels of greenhouse gas emissions involved in their production.

Proponents, meantime, say the pipeline will create thousands of jobs and help end U.S. reliance on Middle Eastern oil.

TransCanada president Russ Girling welcomed the State Department report.

“Support for Keystone XL continues to grow because the public, opinion leaders and elected officials can see the clear benefits that this pipeline will deliver to Americans,” he said in a news release.

“The fundamental issue is energy security. Through the Keystone system, the U.S. can secure access to a stable and reliable supply of oil from Canada where we protect human rights and the environment, or it can import more higher-priced oil from nations who do not share America’s interests or values.”

© 2011 Canadian Press

Interview: James Hansen on the Tar Sands Pipeline Protest, the Obama Administration and Intergenerational Justice

Posted: 8/21/11 06:21 PM ET
On the first day of a planned two-week sit in at the White House organized by TarSandsAction over 70 people were arrested including one of the lead organizers organizer Bill McKibben.
In an attempt to intimidate concerned citizens and policy makers from
continuing the sit-in, the National Park Service did not honor its
previous agreement with McKibben and others to “catch and release”
participants but is holding them in jail over the weekend. Numerous
environmental organizations and leading climate scientists have
condemned the Keystone XL Pipeline project which would bring 900,000
barrels of dirty oil from the Alberta Tar Sands to Texas refineries.
Preeminent climate scientist and director of NASA’s Goddard Institute James Hansen
has described the Alberta Tar Sands oil extraction development as a
game-over proposition for climate change. Sunday afternoon, he addressed
the continuing struggle to address the ever increasing threat of
anthropogenic climate change. Dr. Hansen will be participating in the
protest against the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline in Washington, DC on
August 29th with religious leaders.

JC: President Obama had lofty promises regarding climate change and
the environment during his campaign. To date, his administration has
failed to deliver and is now positioned to approve the Tar Sands
Pipeline, the worst idea in many years in terms of its impact on
climate. Do you see any signs that the Obama administration is moving to
seriously address climate change? Do you feel they administration
deserves a second chance?

JH: Are they serious?  The tar sands pipeline approval or
disapproval will provide the sign of whether the Obama administration is
serious about climate change and protecting the future of young people.Do they deserve a second chance?  Yes, everybody deserves a second chance.

Obama’s first chance was when he was elected — he could have made
energy independence and climate a top priority.  Talking nice about sun
and wind and green jobs is just greenwash.  The only effective policy
would be a rising carbon fee collected from fossil fuel companies with
100 percent of the funds distributed to the public — stimulating the
economy and moving us rapidly toward a clean energy future.  Anything
less is just blather.

 

JC: CO2 levels have now exceeded 391 ppm, and US emissions are growing
again at a record rate, over 4% this year so far. This in spite of an
ever increasing body of scientific evidence that unequivocally
demonstrates anthropogenic climate change to be seriously affecting
global climate life support systems. It would seem that policy makers
and business leaders the world over are incapable of altering the
dead-on course to climate collapse. What can be done?

JH: The problem is that the policy makers the world over are
paying more attention to the fossil fuel lobbyists than they are to the
well being of young people and nature, as my colleagues and I have
described in the paper “The Case for Young People and Nature”.Until the public demands otherwise, the policy makers will continue to serve their financiers.

That’s the point of the present action — to draw attention to the
inter-generational injustice of current policies — our children and
grandchildren are getting shafted by our well-oiled coal-fired
politicians who do not look beyond their next election.

The tar sands verdict will show whether he really intends to move us
to clean energy or whether he will instead support going after dirtier
and dirtier fuels (tar sands, oil shale, mountaintop removal, long-wall
coal mining, hydro-fracking, deep ocean and Arctic exploration, etc.).

2011-08-21-6062545625_9e52c822e5.jpgGus Speth, Bill McKibben, and others at White House
protesting the proposed Tar Sands Pipeline/Photo Credit: Josh
Lopez/Tarsandsaction 

JC: As you know over 70 people including our friends Bill McKibben and
Gus Speth were arrested yesterday in front of the White House. As
always, Bill and the group had repeated discussions with the authorities
prior to the action and were assured that this would be “catch and
release”. As it turns out the National Park Service changed the terms of
engagement and are holding everyone (except DC residents) over the
weekend to discourage others from participating in the two weeks of
protest. Do you think this change of tactic by the National Park Service
will be effective in dissuading others from attending?

JH: No.  What we are doing to the future of our children,
and the other species on the planet, is a clear moral issue.  As Albert
Einstein said, “thought without action is a crime.”  Choosing silence
and safety is not an option.Jail threats did not dissuade Martin Luther King — and
intergenerational justice is a moral issue of comparable magnitude to
civil rights.

 


Follow Jerry Cope on Twitter:

www.twitter.com/jercope

 

 

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‘No Tar Sands’: Margot Kidder Marches on Washington August 20, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Energy, Environment.
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Published on Friday, August 19, 2011 by the Toronto Star

  by Martin Knelman

Margot Kidder became Hollywood’s most famous Canadian by playing Lois Lane in four Superman movies.

Actor Christopher Reeve, as Superman, and Margot Kidder, as Lois Lane, appear in a scene from the 1978 movie ‘Superman. But later, when she was orchestrating a comeback after a series of disasters, she took on a gig doing the voice of a character named Earth Mother in the cartoon show Captain Planet.

Among the lines she delivered: “Hold on, Planeteer, I hate to interrupt your eco-argument, but there’s a nuclear waste spill on the ocean.”

Next week Kidder will be playing Earth Mother for real — doing whatever it takes to get herself arrested in front of the White House while trying to persuade Barack Obama not to sign a deal allowing a new pipeline carrying oil from the Alberta tar sands to Texas.

One of her partners in crime is another celebrated Canadian-born actress and dear old friend, Tantoo Cardinal, an Aboriginal from northern Alberta.

Theirs will be only two faces among the thousands taking part in a large-scale protest, but they will bring a bit of showbiz glitter to the event while showing there are Canadians as well as Americans appalled by the horrifying danger of spreading poison from Alberta all over North America.

(A number of other prominent Canadians are also involved in the protest, including Naomi Klein.)

“This is not just about oil,” Kidder explained this week in a phone interview from her home in Montana. “It’s about climate change and irreversible damage to the environment.”

These days, at 62, Kidder works occasionally, doing such acting gigs as her appearance a year ago at Toronto’s Panasonic Theater in Nora Ephron’s Love, Loss and What I Wore.

But most of the time, she lives quietly, simply and happily in Montana, close to her daughter and grandchildren.

Being at the center of the Hollywood circus may be a distant memory, but Kidder still has the ebullient spirit, charmingly goofy smile and twangy voice that made her a popular favorite.

And she’s still the fearless adventurer and reckless maverick who was born in Yellowknife and grew up in northern mining camps, the daughter of a rambunctious mining engineer from Texas known as Happy Kidder.

Her old friend Norman Jewison, who cast her in her first Hollywood movie in the 1960s, recalls that even back then, “she was a woman of causes, passionate and not afraid to stand her ground.”

That has not changed. Though she has been a U.S. resident for decades, Kidder has proudly held onto her Canadian citizenship. But she became a dual citizen so that she could vote against George W. Bush in 2004 — and so she could take part in protests against the Iraq war without being at risk of deportation.

“Tantoo and I are both northern Canadian babies who believe that the North is a beautiful place worth saving.

“The tar sands have caused a lot of damage already in Alberta, where a lot of people have a weird new kind of cancer. The kind of oil being extracted is thick and corrosive, like molasses, and it has to be pumped at a high heat, emitting poisonous carbon.”

There is already one pipeline running from Alberta to Texas, and there have been disturbing leaks. According to Kidder, the proposed new pipeline would destroy the freshwater rivers and other natural wonders of Montana, because it’s bound to leak.

“We already have experts who warn that if the tar sands industry is allowed to expand and build another pipeline, the damages will be irreversible and the long-term consequences horrendous,” warns Kidder. “In fact this is the most serious climate changer we have on the planet.”

So why are political leaders in Ottawa and Washington in favour of expanding the tar sands?

“In his 2008 campaign, Obama made a promise to stand up to oil companies and Wall Street,” says Kidder, “but now he is being pressed to sign this agreement between now and November, and those who worked for Obama are so discouraged. A lot of people are dismayed that democracy is losing out to huge corporations that contribute billions to political campaigns.”

Kidder and other demonstrators hope to persuade Obama to stand up to the oil companies and refuse to sign the pipeline deal. In the process of making the point, she expects to land in a Washington jail, if only briefly.

As for Canada, she laments: “Stephen Harper is more interested in short-term profit than long-term consequences. But I have two beautiful grandchildren, and I would like them to live on a beautiful planet.”

© 2011 Toronto Star