Archive for Thursday, October 6, 2011

Conservationist groups file lawsuit to block TransCanada pipeline

October 6, 2011


U.S. officials illegally allowed a Canadian company to begin preparing the route for its proposed 1,700-mile-long oil pipeline from western Canada to Texas, even though the project hasn’t gained final government approval, three conservationist groups contend in a lawsuit filed Wednesday.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should not have allowed TransCanada Corp. to begin clearing a 100-mile corridor through northern Nebraska grasslands because the State Department hasn’t signed off on the Keystone XL pipeline project, the groups argue in their lawsuit filed in federal court in Omaha.

Part of that massive pipeline already runs through Kansas, but it hasn’t been built in other states.

TransCanada was allowed to mow down delicate native grasses and to relocate an endangered species living there, the American burying beetle, they say.

“It’s our contention that that activity is illegal. They should not be constructing the pipeline, and they should not be out there,” Noah Greenwald, the Center for Biological Diversity’s endangered species director, said at a news conference in Omaha.

The plaintiffs, who also include the Western Nebraska Resources Council and Friends of the Earth, are seeking to stop the preparations for the proposed pipeline, which would carry an estimated 700,000 barrels of crude per day from the oil sands of Alberta, Canada, to Texas Gulf Coast refineries.

TransCanada spokesman Shawn Howard said the claims made in the lawsuit are false and that it mowed some grass as part of efforts to protect and move some of the protected beetles. In every case where mowing was done, the company received permission from landowners, Howard said.

“We respect the regulated review process currently under way and in no way would we impact that by beginning construction without a permit,” Howard said in a written statement.

Howard stressed that mowing doesn’t constitute construction.

Pipeline supporters, including some business groups and unions, say it would double the capacity of an existing pipeline from Canada and make the U.S. less reliant on Middle East oil. They also say it would create jobs in the states it would pass through — Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

In Nebraska, the pipeline has drawn opposition from an unlikely coalition of farmers, ranchers, landowners, environmental groups and other activists who fear it will leak and contaminate the Ogallala aquifer, which supplies drinking and irrigation water to eight states.

Some climatologists have also argued that by increasing production from the tar sands, the U.S. would begin a dramatic increase in the burning of carbon-intensive fossil fuels at a time when it should be trying to reduce the release of gases that contribute to global warming.

Earlier this week, opponents of the pipeline released emails and other internal documents that they say demonstrate an overly cozy relationship between State Department officials and TransCanada. The groups asked President Barack Obama to intervene and block the pipeline project.

In their lawsuit, the conservationist groups say the decision to allow TransCanada to begin preparing the proposed route for its pipeline shows that federal officials aren’t committed to the full, legally mandated review. State Department officials held public meetings last week in the states the pipeline would pass through, and have defended the process as fair.

“The State Department has further confirmed that it is running a corrupt review process by giving TransCanada a green light to begin construction,” said Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth. “It makes a mockery of the public and sends a message to Nebraska that their concerns don’t matter. If the State Department was truly doing its job, this lawsuit wouldn’t be necessary.”

By mowing and transplanting an endangered species, TransCanada has already created environmental damage, said Bruce McIntosh, staff ecologist with the Western Nebraska Resources Council.

“It’s not just clearing. It’s destruction,” said McIntosh, who recently flew over the mowed swaths to document the razing.

He also said the attempt to move the beetles, which have been on the endangered species list since 1983, would result in some dying. The beetles are now found in only six states: Nebraska, Rhode Island, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Kansas, and Arkansas, according to University of Nebraska-Lincoln entomologists.

Although the State Department has final say over the project because it crosses international boundaries, some claim the state of Nebraska could control the pipeline’s route through the state.

That could yet happen. Hours after the announced lawsuit, Nebraska Speaker of the Legislature Mike Flood announced that a group of Nebraska lawmakers will meet next Tuesday with a TransCanada official to discuss concerns about the proposed route of the Keystone XL pipeline through Nebraska.


TopJayhawk 6 years, 6 months ago

More whiney environmental groups to block progress and commerce.

It the pipe breaks, clean it up. But build the thing.

Steve Jacob 6 years, 6 months ago

Realistically, if you want to reduce coal use in this country, this is the way. Wind and solar is still decades away, and no way will we build nuclear plants anymore.

Ken Lassman 6 years, 6 months ago

The state of Kansas gave away all tax revenues for 10 years from Keystone, which means every county government it was supposed to help got shafted.

This in no way reduces coal use in the US--even tho it is bitumen, it will be refined into oil, which no midwest power plant uses, so your argument is completely off topic, srj.

Furthermore, the argument that it will provide North Americans a safe and secure oil source is being said by oil execs with their fingers clearly crossed: if this were the case, then the pipeline would not need to be extended from its current terminal in Cushing, OK. Why would you build it to the Gulf of Mexico if you weren't clearly interested in shipping it AWAY from North America?

Since it is underground, small leaks are very hard to detect until they've become large leaks. And while they testified that a leak shouldn't happen but once every 7 years, the section already built has sprung 14 leaks already even tho it's less than a year old. That includes a several thousand gallon leak right here in Kansas, folks.

colreader 6 years, 6 months ago

Current north-south pipelines are maxed out.

jhawkinsf 6 years, 6 months ago

I was reading somewhere recently (gosh it's tough getting old and not remembering exactly where), but anyway, it said that if you totaled all the power in all the batteries on Earth, it would amount to about ten minutes of the power we consume in one day. That's not a lot of capacity. While solar, wind and other renewable energies should be the goal, we're simply not there yet. We need other sources of energy to bridge the time gap from where we are now to the time when we can transition to renewable energy. That means picking our poison. Oil, coal, natural gas, nuclear, dams to harness hydro energy. Knowing that each has it's problems, I'd go with nuclear energy, hoping that future generations will be able to deal with the stuff better than they would dealing with a warmer, dirtier planet.
Given the reality of the world we live in, I hope conservationists who work against this pipeline will also work towards a reasonable alternative.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 6 months ago

"it said that if you totaled all the power in all the batteries on Earth, it would amount to about ten minutes of the power we consume in one day. That's not a lot of capacity. While solar, wind and other renewable energies should be the goal, we're simply not there yet."

And what if all the money spent building pipelines and subsidizing oil companies and the wars required to maintain access to oilfields, and the massive amounts of money expanding nuclear would require, could go instead to creating sustainable and environmentally friendly sources of energy?

Do we run the risk of having to adjust our lifestyles by following that path? Probably. But following the path you recommended will almost certainly require even greater changes in lifestyle-- very grim ones at that.

jhawkinsf 6 years, 6 months ago

I can't believe I'm going to agree with you Bozo, but i would love to see the U.S. invest huge sums of money in renewable energy. The problem is that the money needs to be invested in research and development. Current technology just isn't out there to sustain our current needs. We still need a bridge from here to there.
And I believe that if we invested in that technology, we could then sell it abroad, recouping our investment. But that takes the leadership and vision that does not exist currently in this country. We need both the bridge that I mentioned, my preferred method being nuclear and we need the commitment to renewables.

jafs 6 years, 6 months ago

Power usage is not a fixed item, and so our "energy needs" are variable, and we can adjust them to some degree.

Ken Lassman 6 years, 6 months ago

"we need other sources of energy to bridge the time gap from where we are now to the timme when we can transition to renewable energy. That means picking our poison. Oil, coal, natural gas, nuclear, dams to harness hydro energy."

Actually, this is incorrect. The landscape has changed. Believe it or not, since the '08 recession, energy consumption has levelled off and even dropped in some regions. The economic stagnation we're currrently in promises to put off the need for new capacity for quite a while. In the meantime, a new, real, viable strategy has been formulated in which we get serious about improving energy efficiency, which both reduces demand and utilizes the saved costs of energy generation to pay for putting more and more renewables online instead of building extremely costly new centralized power generating complexes, whether they be new coal, carbon sequestered coal or nuclear, all of which are considerably more expensive than new wind, which is why way more new capacity these days is being installed using wind power and this has been the case for several years.

Bottom line: the amount of electricity generation being retired can be replaced by a combination of energy efficiency, CHP and renewables, and the transition will cost the consumer less money than building new coal or nukes. For more information, check out the following link:

buffalo63 6 years, 6 months ago

I am old enough to remember when they built the first nuclear plants. The engineers and scientists said that they should be able find a way to store spent fuel rods by the time the rods are used up and storage space at the plant is full. That was over 50 years ago and what to do with the spent rods still has not been solved. Nuclear is NOT a good alternative.

itwasthedukes 6 years, 6 months ago

Save the Beetles forget the jobs! And who needs oil anyway?

Paul R Getto 6 years, 6 months ago

"buffalo63 (anonymous) says… I am old enough to remember when they built the first nuclear plants" === Me too, and they also noted in some literature that the electricity would be 'too cheap to meter' so they could just give it away. That didn't work out. Other than spent fuel storage, nuclear doesn't bother me much and we need to exploit it more.

Ken Lassman 6 years, 6 months ago

My beef with nukes comes from their price: the price per kilowatt for a new nuke is way higher than wind, the price for decommissioning is way higher than any other form of energy production, plus the price of waste processing and storage. Then there's the price of security: it almost necessitates a police state environment of protection to prevent potential wing nuts from trying to make it spew radioactivity across the landscape.

Until they come up with better designs, it's just not worth bothering with.

Don Whiteley 6 years, 6 months ago

Remember when the environmental groups all used to put bumper stickers on their cars that said, "split wood, not atoms"? That makes about as much sense as their opposition to this pipeline. I'm all for saving the environment, but radicals are the same everywhere you look and thinking is not something they're very good at. The transmission of oil across a pipeline has been proven safe and effective in Alaska, so I can hardly imagine how it's going to affect a few beetles living in Nebraska, any more than completing the SLT through a manmade swamp is going to effect the environment around Lawrence.

deec 6 years, 6 months ago

"The transmission of oil across a pipeline has been proven safe and effective in Alaska, " In March 2006, corroded feeder pipelines on the North Slope gave way, spilling at least 6,310 barrels (1,003 m3) of oil.[164] In August 2006, during an inspection mandated by the United States Department of Transportation after the leak, severe corrosion was discovered.[165] The transit pipelines were shut down for several days that month, and replacement of 16 miles (26 km) of transit pipeline began. The project was completed before Christmas Day 2008 at a cost of $500 million to BP.[166]

In May 2010, as much as several thousands of barrels were spilled from a pump station near Fort Greely during a scheduled shutdown. A relief valve control circuit failed during a test of the fire control system, and oil poured into a tank and overflowed onto a secondary containment area. [167]

A leak was discovered on Jan 8, 2011, in the basement of the booster pump at Pump Station 1. For more than 80 hours, pipeline flow was reduced to 5 percent of normal. An oil collection system was put in place, and full flow resumed until the pipeline was again shut down while a bypass was installed to avoid the leaking section.[168

verity 6 years, 6 months ago

And when it leaks into the already diminished Oglallah Aquifer?

deec 6 years, 6 months ago

"n 2009, Flint Hills Resources Canada LP, an Alberta-based subsidiary of Koch Industries, applied for—and won—"intervenor status" in the National Energy Board hearings that led to Canada's 2010 approval of its 327-mile portion of the pipeline. The controversial project would carry heavy crude 1,700 miles from Alberta to the Texas Gulf Coast.

In the form it submitted to the Energy Board, Flint Hills wrote that it "is among Canada's largest crude oil purchasers, shippers and exporters. Consequently, Flint Hills has a direct and substantial interest in the application" for the pipeline under consideration."

Commenting has been disabled for this item.