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Republican National Convention Keystone XL Listening Guide

Republican National Convention Keystone XL Listening Guide

What You’ll Hear Vs. The Facts

*press note: Jane Kleeb (jane@boldnebraska.org) is available in Tampa to debate Keystone XL supporters or to give perspective on eminent domain, pipeline route issues, climate and other energy related issues around tarsands and TransCanada. Video of Jane on Fox Business, click here*

As Republican delegates converge on Tampa next week, you may hear some familiar refrains arguing for approval of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. We can expect many attending the GOP convention to symbolically “pick up their shovels” in solidarity with Mitt Romney who has promised to build the dirty, dangerous pipeline himself should he be elected.

While arguments in favor of TransCanada’s tar sands pipeline from Big Oil and its allies have been sold to the public as truths, their claims are simply not based in fact. With that in mind, this listening guide may help you determine fact from fiction as proponents of Keystone XL attempt to push this risky project onto the American public.

Gas Prices

What you might hear:

Many Republicans and Keystone XL pipeline supporters like to say that the Keystone XL pipeline will lower gas prices. The following sorts of statements may be thrown around at the Republican convention, even though pipeline supporters have been quieter on the subject since gas prices have been lower all summer and have only started to rise again because of a recent pipeline spill in Wisconsin and refinery fire in California.

Representative Connie Mack was quoted in the Miami Herald (4/5/12) saying the cost of fuel in Florida “was, essentially, the fault of the president and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson for opposing the [Keystone XL] pipeline.. They don’t believe lower gas prices are important.”

Michigan Congressman Fred Upton said that Keystone XL tar sands pipeline “could help stabilize gas prices as more oil is fed in the Midwest” according to a report by MLive (6/12/12).

The facts:

The idea that Keystone XL would have a positive effect on gas prices is an overused GOP talking point that has no basis in fact.

Reports have shown that not only will the Keystone XL pipeline do nothing to ease the price of gas, but it could actually raise the cost for consumers in parts of the country.  The reasons for that being Keystone XL is likely to both decrease the amount of gasoline produced in U.S. refineries for domestic markets and increase the cost of producing it, according to a report from NRDC, Oil Change International and Forest Ethics Advocacy.

TransCanada’s Keystone XL tar sands pipeline bypasses Midwestern refineries, transporting tar sands from Alberta directly to refineries on Texas’ Gulf Coast. A barrel of crude oil processed in Midwestern refineries produces more than 25 percent more gasoline than one processed in a Texas Gulf refinery.

Moreover, the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would increase the cost of producing gasoline. One of the primary purposes of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is to increase the price of Canadian tar sands and profits for the multinational companies that produce the tar sands. That means increasing the price of oil to the buyer—United States refineries. . In 2009,TransCanada told Canadian regulators that Keystone XL would eliminate the disparity between Canadian crude and international crude prices—and an overall revenue increase for Canadian crude producers was estimated at between $1.8 billion to $3.4 billion. Since 2009, the disparity between Canadian crude and international prices has increased dramatically – eliminating that disparity today would increase the revenue for Canadian producers by tens of billions of dollars. Much of that extra oil revenue would come from the United States.

Jobs

What you might hear more of:

U.S. Senator Richard Lugar from Indiana has said that Keystone XL will result in “hundreds of thousands” of new jobs, created indirectly by the Keystone XL pipeline project. Senator Lugar’s “estimate is based in part on Perryman’s 2010 study for TransCanada, according to the senator’s spokesman, Andy Fisher.”

The facts:

If you listened to Republicans you may believe that the Keystone XL would single-handedly solve the jobs problem in the United States, creating thousands upon thousands of jobs. However, the facts say something different.

An independent analysis by Cornell University’s Global Labor Institute finds that these claims are completely false.  Most jobs that are created by Keystone XL, according to the Cornell study, will be “temporary and non-local.” The Cornell report concludes that the pipeline “will not be a major source of US jobs, nor will it play any substantial role at all in putting Americans back to work.”

In fact, “The number of people needed to operate and maintain the 1,661-mile (2,673-kilometer) pipeline may be as few as 20, according to the U.S. State Department, or as many as a few hundred, according to TransCanada.”

National Security: Kicking Foreign Oil

What you might hear more of:

Despite TransCanada’s unwillingness to say that most of Keystone XL’s oil will stay in the United States, Republicans are convinced that pumping more oil is in our national security interests. Senator Lugar (R-IN) has said, “It would help protect United States national security interests… Crude from Keystone XL will be processed in American refineries and the vast majority of the products will be consumed on American soil.”|

The facts:

Keystone XL pipeline will actually carry the dirty tar sands oil from Canada through not to the U.S. market. TransCanada’s Keystone XL will merely redirect supply to the Gulf so that it can be exported and sold for higher prices on the global market. When asked by Rep. Ed Markey if TransCanada could guarantee that the oil would remain in the United States, the company’s president for energy and oil pipeline was quick to say “No, I can’t do that.

The Keystone XL pipeline is designed for one thing—to send oil from Canada to the Texas Gulf coast, and from there to overseas markets. According to retired Brigadier General Steven M. Anderson (the US Army’s senior logistician in Iraq from 2006-2007), the pipeline “would set back our renewable energy efforts for at least two decades, much to our enemies’ delight. It would ensure we maintain our oil addiction and delay making the tough decisions regarding energy production, management and conservation that we need to start making today.” And as Anderson makes clear, “Canadian oil won’t replace imports from hostile countries because Texas refiners are serving global demand rather than domestic need.”

Pipeline Safety

What you might hear more of:

On many of these issues it is hard to distinguish Big Oil from the GOP. Take the following two quotes as example:

  • “This is the most technologically advanced and safest pipeline ever proposed,” [said the speaker] noting XL has a censor every 167 meters to monitor pressure, flow rates and to identify leaks.
  • “Keystone XL will be the safest pipeline ever built in the United States. It will incorporate more remotely controlled shut-off valves, increased pipeline inspections and pipe that is buried deeper in the ground, and horizontal directional drilling to place the pipeline well below major river crossings.”

Would you be able to guess which was spoken by TransCanada and which came from a Republican parrot?

We couldn’t either, but now you’ll be ready. At the RNC convention expect to hear more of the same and it won’t matter the spokesperson since the message will be the same. While the second statement is pulled from an op-ed by TransCanada’s Alex Pourbaix, the first quote came straight from Representative Ed Whitfield, a Republican from Kentucky.

The facts:

TransCanada and supporters of the pipeline claim this will be the safest pipeline in history. But all we have to go on is their record, which paints quite a different picture from what is being said.

Federal regulators have not yet determined how to ensure the safe transport of diluted bitumen by pipeline. Because raw tar sands bitumen is more corrosive and abrasive than normal crude oil, it is likely that the risk of a spill is greater. Yet, the safety and spill response standards used by the United States to regulate pipeline transport of bitumen are designed for conventional oil. To make matters worse, neither regulators nor the industry doesn’t know how to clean up this product after a spill–its unique composition means that traditional clean-up techniques don’t work (for example, unlike regular oil, diluted bitumen sinks in water) as had been illustrated over the last two years as crews clean-up the Enbridge tar sands spill in Michigan’s Kalamazoo River. At a cost of over $800 million, that tar sands spill has become the most expensive onshore pipeline accident in U.S. history.

“John S. Stansbury, a professor of environmental and water engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, last summer, “said he anticipated that the pipeline would experience 91 spills producing leaks of more than 50 barrels of oil during its first 50 years of operation. TransCanada, by contrast, predicts only 11 spills of that size or larger, according to Dr. Stansbury’s analysis of its regulatory filings, ” according to the New York Times.

And safety may be an industry wide issue. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released a report in July with the damning results of their investigation into Enbridge Energy’s 2010 tar sands pipeline spill into the Kalamazoo River. An article by Fritz Klug on a Michigan news site notes that the report uncovered the fact that, “The Canadian pipeline company knew five years before the pipeline ruptured that there were cracks in the section of pipeline that eventually failed, spilling more than a million gallons of heavy crude into Talmadge Creek then the Kalamazoo River. Federal regulators never fully reviewed or drilled the company on its spill response plan.”

Findings by the NTSB translate across the whole of the pipeline industry and present a troubling picture as the nation debates approval of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, other new pipelines, and the expansion of existing projects. The findings beg the question of whether it truly can be safe to transport corrosive tar sands.

Landowner Rights and Eminent Domain

What you might hear more of:

Republicans claim to be have the utmost concern and  concerned about landowner rights, so much so that the issue was included in the GOP party platform of 2008 following the Supreme Court’s Kelo v. City of New London decision with which they disagreed:

RNC 2008 Platform on Kelo Decision/Landowner Rights:

 “At the center of a free economy is the right of citizens to be secure in their property. Every person has the right to acquire, own, use, possess, enjoy, and dispose of private property. That right was undermined by the Supreme Court’s Kelo decision, allowing local governments to seize a person’s home or land, not for vital public use, but for transfer to private developers. That 5-to-4 decision highlights what is at stake in the election of the next president, who may make new appointments to the Court. We call on state legislatures to moot the Kelo decision by appropriate legislation, and we pledge on the federal level to pass legislation to protect against unjust federal takings.” [Page 54]

The facts:

In the GOP’s rabid support for construction of the Keystone XL tarsands pipeline, some members seem to have disregarded their fundamental support for property rights and opposition to eminent domain—a position that they made clear following the Supreme Court’s decision in.

Among others, Senators Cornyn (R-TX), Crapo (R-ID), Inhofe (R-OK), Isakson (R-GA), Hatch (R-UT), and Rubio (R-FL) all publically opposed the Kelo decision and now publically support the Keystone XL pipeline—despite the fact that eminent domain would be used to claim private property in seven states.

The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline cannot be built without seizing right-of-way by eminent domain and TransCanada has already come across landowners from Nebraska to Texas who are willing to fight tooth and nail for their property, which is often their source of livelihood. Mark Kleiman, Professor of Public Policy at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs caught on to the depth of Republican hypocrisy on the issue, stating “… It’s perfectly consistent to think that eminent-domain powers can be used to complete projects better left unstarted, and also to think that bad projects ought to be blocked on their merits. It’s not quite so consistent to back property rights except when the big energy companies want to confiscate them.”

Pipeline Route

What you might hear more of:

TransCanada wants the public to believe that the “new” proposed route for the Keystone XL tar sands export pipeline avoids ecologically sensitive regions in Nebraska. While the new route does not pass through the EPA-defined “Sand Hills” region, according to a map resulting from a closed door meeting with TransCanada lobbyists and a few state senators, it does pass through sandy hills with the same porous soil and it does pass through the critical Ogallala Aquifer.

On two separate occasions, Republican Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman referenced stated that he would only support a route that avoided the sensitive Ogallala aquifer:

Yet, Heineman changed his tune and now supports accelerating the project  and in a June letter to constituents regarding review of the new route did not even mention the Ogallala aquifer, as if it no longer existed and bought into TransCanada’s claim that the route avoids sensitive sandy soil.

Other Republican supporters acknowledge that the route would cross the aquifer, but are unconcerned. Take Deb Fischer, a GOP candidate for U.S. Senate in Nebraska, who has put her faith in the foreign pipeline company and said “The Ogallala Aquifer is not in danger.”

The facts:

The Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality Keystone XL Pipeline Evaluation Feedback Report published a report in which the NDEQ notes TransCanada’s proposed route followed the law to avoid the region designated as the Sand Hills Region, but added: “However, there are areas along the proposed corridor where fragile soils and aquifer protection are concerns.”

NDEQ stated that the “proposed corridor still crosses areas of fragile, sandy soils that are outside of the Sand Hills ecoregion but that have surface features very similar to the Sand Hills.” The report continues, “Because of the erodibility of these soils, Keystone should carefully consider route variations that will avoid these areas…Where avoidance is not possible, Keystone should document why avoidance is not possible and describe for NDEQ the measures that it will take to minimize disturbance to these areas.”

But despite submitting a new proposed route, TransCanada still passes over the Ogallala aquifer and sensitive sandy soils. An E&E News reporter recently wrote that, “A sandy hill without the Sand Hills label doesn’t ease the threat that [a local family along the route] and their vocal neighbors say the new pipeline path poses to their water.”

The Ogallala Aquifer is the United States’ largest freshwater source that provides drinking water for more than two million people and supplies approximately 30% of our country’s total irrigation water. A University of Nebraska at Lincoln study found that the pipeline is expected to experience up to 91 significant spills over a 50-year period—which could have catastrophic consequences for the critical water source.

Video of Jane Kleeb on Fox Business

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