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EPA Slams State Department on Proposed Oil Pipeline

White House could intervene as environmental security takes equal place next to energy security as national concern

By David Sassoon

Jul 27, 2010

The EPA has slowed down the approval process of a permit for a new Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline that a few months ago looked like a shoo-in for a State Department rubber stamp by the fall.

The EPA gave the State department's for the 2000 mile pipeline that will cut across the nation's heartland the worst rating possible, noting that if differences between the agencies can't be resolved, the matter could get referred to the White House for resolution.

In response, the State department announced it intended to add 90 days to the process of making a decision on the pipeline permit to allow the final environmental impact statement to be reviewed by other federal agencies. Observers think that means there will be no decision until sometime next year. 

Last year, a similar pipeline received approval with far less scrutiny. Is environmental security rising to become a matter of primary national interest in the wake of the Gulf oil disaster?

"We're not BP, I'm not sure what that means for TransCanada," Terry Cunha, a spokesperson for the company that wants to build the pipeline said, referring to the Gulf oil disaster.  "The incident that took place with BP is unfortunate, but we don't drill offshore, we're a pipeline company and we have a strong safety record."

The proposed TransCanada pipeline will carry crude from Alberta's oil sands to refineries in Texas. Known as the Keystone XL, it would increase the flow of a far more polluting form of oil from the north by 900,000 barrels a day and double US consumption.

"I think it reflects a growing recognition that Canada has mismanaged oil sands development," Simon Dyer told SolveClimate News. He is the the oilsands program director of the Pembina Institute, a Canadian sustainable energy think tank. "The U.S. EPA is an agency that is actually doing its job as compared to regulatory agencies in Canada that are not providing this kind of scrutiny."  

The EPA has asked the State Department to consider the national security implications of expanding the nation's commitment to a relatively high-carbon source of oil, which EPA says has a well-to-wheels carbon footprint 82 percent larger than conventional oil.   

Also of concern is what would happen if a pipeline accident caused a serious spill above the Ogallala aquifer which millions of Americans in the Midwest rely on for fresh drinking water as well as irrigation, but many other long-standing environmental impacts are also giving EPA pause.

"We don't agree with it," Cunha of said, referring to the EPA's poor rating of the draft environmental impact statement. "We've been working with the State Department since November 2008 and we think they did a thorough and complete job."

Energy and Environmental Security on an Equal Footing

Through the lens of energy security, Canadian oil looks more attractive than oil tainted by unfriendly foreign regimes, but since April 20th, when the Deepwater Horizon exploded, the sheen of that perceived advantage has faded.

It has become painfully clear that with one environmental catastrophe, the economy and social fabric of a whole region can be destroyed as effectively as with a terrorist attack. 

It puts oil thirsty Americans between Iraq and a hard place, and the search for a proper balance between energy and environmental security is now up for grabs in the inter-agency tussle.

Ask average Americans where to find the biggest and dirtiest industrial project known to man, and chances are that only a few will point to a leading contender just across the northern border in Alberta, Canada.

Alberta is ground zero of an oil bonanza booming on North American soil, where vast deposits of oil sands sitting beneath pristine boreal forests are being unearthed, causing severe and far-reaching environmental impacts.

Alberta tar sand

See:

 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/wcc.81/full

 "Preliminary Analysis of a Global Drought Time Series"  by Barton Paul Levenson, not yet published.

 http://climateprogress.org/2010/12/14/southwest-drought-global-warmin/

 http://climateprogress.org/2011/01/20/lester-brown-extreme-weather-climate-change-record-food-prices/

 http://climateprogress.org/2011/01/20/lester-brown-extreme-weather-climate-change-record-food-prices/

Under BAU [Business As Usual], agriculture and civilization will collapse some time between 2050 and 2055 due to drought caused by GW [Global Warming].

Reference: "The Long Summer" by Brian Fagan and "Collapse" by Jared Diamond.   When agriculture collapses, civilization collapses.   Fagan and Diamond told the stories of something like 2 dozen previous very small civilizations.   Most of the collapses were caused by fraction of a degree climate changes.   In some cases, all of that group died.   On the average, 1 out of 10,000 survived.    We humans could go EXTINCT in 2051.   The 1 out of 10,000 survived because he wandered in the direction of food.   If the collapse is global, there is no right direction.

We must take extreme action now.   Cut CO2 production 40% by the end of 2015.   [How to do this:  Replace all coal fired power plants with factory built nuclear.]   Continuing to make CO2 is the greatest imaginable GENOCIDE.   We have to act NOW.   Acting in 2049 will not work.   Nature just doesn't work that way.   All coal fired power plants must be shut down and replaced with nuclear and renewables.   Target date: 2015.

Tar sands must never be put into production.   To do so is too seal our fate.   There is so much carbon available in Alberta tar sand that it will easily push Global Warming into the for-sure extinction zone for Homo Sapiens.   We must not allow anyone to use the Alberta tar sands for anything.   Once we start using Alberta tar sand, we will be addicted and unable to stop.  Likewise, coal must never be made into a liquid fuel.

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