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Beyond Keystone XL

By Burkely Herrman - October 1, 2013, (used by permission)

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Calls to stop the Keystone XL are growing, even resulting in President Obama making a statement about it to appease people. However, in the midst of the super-focus on TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline, there are dirty energy pipelines worse than the Keystone that big environmental organizations (e.g. Gang Green) refuse to focus on.

Using the search bars on the websites of these organizations, I looked up the words “Enbridge,” the company building one of the dirty energy pipelines, and “Keystone XL.” The groups I examined are explained and critiqued more in depth in an article I wrote on State of Nature. Starting with the NRDC, there were 474 results for the search term “Enbridge” and 8,330 results for the search term “Keystone XL.” This means that the NRDC wrote 17 times or 1700% more about Keystone XL than the Enbridge pipeline. The results were similar with Environment America where searching for Enbridge turned up 2 results, but searching for Keystone XL spit out over three pages of results! This pattern continued with other organizations. Even the NWF which had 1500 results for the search term “Enbridge,” had over two times as many results for the term Keystone XL”: 4740 in all. The Sierra Club had 63 total results for “Enbridge” and over five times that for the term “Keystone XL.” Additionally, in a twitter search I did for the Enbridge pipeline, I found that a local organ in Minnesota and another in Canada had written tweets about the pipeline. As for 350.org, there were 66 results for the term “Enbridge” and almost 30 times as many results for the term “Keystone XL.”  Additionally, there were six organizations that had no results when one searched for Enbridge on their websites: The Nature Conservancy, Defenders of Wildlife,EDF, The Wilderness Society, The Audubon Society, and the World Wildlife Fund (US). These same organizations had dramatically higher amounts of results for a search for “Keystone XL” on their websites. One organization, Conservation International stood out because there were “no results” for either search term. In every instance, there were more results for Keystone XL than for any of the Enbridge pipelines.

It is deeply troubling that Gang Green would super-prioritize Keystone XL, but not focus as much on the pipelines built by Enbridge. This is dangerous because as Canadian investigative journalist and climate activist Cory Morningstar tells us, Enbridge is building a “massive…US #pipeline quietly on fast-track to approval as #KXL remains mired in debate.” This pipeline is, according to an Associated Press story Morningstar links to, “a 965-kilometre pipeline that would carry oil from Flanagan, Ill….to the company’s terminal in Cushing, Okla…The company is seeking an expedited permit review by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers…the proposed pipeline has attracted little public attention…A July 2010 rupture of an Enbridge pipeline in Michigan dumped an estimated 3.8 million litres of the heavier diluted bitumen into the Kalamazoo River…Enbridge is seeking regulatory approval under the Nationwide 12 permit process…mean[ing] the company wouldn’t be obligated to follow more rigorous Clean Water Act requirements.” This isn’t surprising as Enbridge boasts that they are “the largest single conduit of crude oil into the United States.” An article in the New Scientist notes that “the Canadian company Enbridge wants to build a pipeline called Northern Gateway…it could carry 525,000 barrels of oil per day…Enbridge also wants to expand its Alberta Clipper pipeline, which carries 450,000 barrels per day from Alberta to Wisconsin. The expanded pipeline would carry 800,000 barrels per day, almost as much as Keystone XL’s planned 830,000 barrels per day.” As Brendan Demelle of DeSmogBlog wrote in April, “Enbridge’s Line 2…pipeline has leaked an estimated 600 gallons of crude oil at its pump station near Viking, Minnesota…Similar to the controversial Keystone XL pipeline battle, Enbridge is currently seeking a Presidential Permit from President Barack Obama…DeSmog has confirmed at least two previous spills on Line 2, one in Minnesota in 2004 that spilled over 1,000 barrels and another in North Dakota in 2010 that spilled over 3,000 barrels.” A post on the liberal site, Daily Kos, back in March rang the same alarm bells, with one commentator noting that “Enbridge is proposing to increase the transport capacity of its formerly named “Alberta Clipper” pipeline…The proposed Presidential Permit would authorize modifications to the facility allowing an eventual transport rate of 880,000 barrels per day —- larger than the 830,000 barrels per day for the Keystone XL Pipeline.”

The cross-border Enbridge pipeline is only the start. Maps produced by the Indigenous Environmental Network and Oil Sands Truth note the proposed pipelines for 2019 and 2026 in Canada and the United States. The connective pipeline network notes the following pipelines (other than Keystone XL) starting in Canada including the Mackenzie Gas Project, North-Central Corridor Gas Pipeline, Enbridge Gateway Pipeline, Kinder Morgan TMX Expansion, Enbridge Southern Lights pipeline, Enbridge Line 5 Expansion, the Trailbreaker pipeline, the Option 2 Enbridge Pioneer pipeline, the Option 1 Enbridge Pioneer pipeline and the Centurion Pipeline Reversal. A map by Inside Climate News notes a number of other pipelines: Montreal pipeline, the Seaway pipeline, the Houston Lateral pipeline, and the Gulf Coat Project. Maybe this is why TransCanada boasts about all of their proposed pipelines. The Real News did a show about of their new pipelines recently, saying that “TransCanada….also wants to build the Energy East pipeline, a 4,400 kilometer long pipeline that will connect the tar sands to Eastern Canada…a pipeline that is almost twice the size of Keystone XL…1.1 million barrels of oil a day being shipped…almost 3,000 miles.”

On the other hand, Dirty Oil Sands highlights three big pipelines other than Keystone XL. One of these is the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, which “would carry 525,000 barrels of oil per day…from the Alberta tar sands to the port of Kitimat on the West Coast of British Columbia. The pipeline would travel..731 miles…through harsh mountainous terrain, cross hundreds of salmon-bearing streams, negatively impact grizzly bear habitat, and end on the edge of the Pacific Ocean…encourage the rapid expansion of the tar sands, put local and regional water sources at risk, threaten salmon that depend on clean water to spawn, and exacerbate climate change.” The next one they highlight is Kinder Morgan, which “hopes to triple the capacity of its existing TransMountain Pipeline from 300,000 to almost 900,000 barrels per day by 2017.” The last one highlighted is Enbridge’s Trailbreaker pipeline that “runs from Sarnia, Ontario to Montreal, Quebec, where it connects with the Portland Montreal Pipe Line…If approved, tar sands oil will be shipped to Sarnia through existing pipelines, and then…to Montreal [then to] Portland, Maine…where it will be loaded on to oil tankers and shipped to market in Asia and beyond.” These pipelines fit into the plan of Enbridge reported by PRI in July to “bring Alberta Tar Sands oil to American ports.”

This is only a small part of the pipeline network. After all, as Reuters noted in their oil-friendly propaganda article this February, that despite the controversy over Keystone XL, other pipelines continue to be built. Oil Price takes a similar approach opining on one occasion that Keystone XL is minor compared to other pipelines and that there is so much fuss about Keystone XL but not the other pipelines. To a large extent this is true, as a chart on theorda.com showing (according to its admin) existing pipelines criss-crossing in the US about 4-5 years ago when there were “no proposals pending at the time that the map was made,” transporting dirty energy, a good amount that goes to foreign consumers. In addition, DeSmogBlog notes that “pipelines…are truly the blood vessels of the oil and gas industry…They cart valuable petroleum products from source to refinery to end use with remarkable efficiency…Pipelines leak and spill – pretty often, actually. They run through fragile ecosystems, under waterways, and across incredibly valuable aquifers.”

Luckily, even though Gang Green won’t act in opposition to these pipelines, grassroots groups have opposed every pipeline. OccupyWallSt.org notes this very well, in their articles on the subject: Michigan Climate activists taking direct action to halt the construction of Enbridge’s 6B Tar Sands expansion pipeline, direct action training to stop the Spectra Pipeline, and NYC climate activists protesting the same pipeline. At the same time, the indigenous Idle No More movement is also protesting such pipelines and there were international actions in solitary with direct action against a tar sands pipeline in British Columbia. There have been other signs of resistance: citizens of Mayflower, Arkansas who sued ExxonMobil for their Tar Sands pipeline spill, and a statement by the Green Party of Ontario “pledging to fight 2 oil pipeline projects through Ontario…[including] TransCanada Corp.’s proposed east coast pipeline….and Enbridge’s proposed Line 9 pipeline.” In the end, there must be a push to stop all proposed dirty energy pipelines using militant non-violence and non-violent resistance.