As we ring in the New Year, and mark year five of our fight to stop the Keystone Export Pipeline, it’s a good time to remember the myths TransCanada keeps telling the press and public in their attempt to mislead Americans about the pipeline being in our national interest.
In the end, that is the determination President Obama has to make. Is an export, foreign, tarsands pipeline cutting through one of America’s largest bodies of fresh water in our national interest?
The answer five years ago, as I sat watching farmers and ranchers tell the State Department the route was too risky for their livelihoods and our water, was no. The answer today is no. The answer tomorrow will be no. The only way we can ensure the President makes the right decision for our land, water and climate is to act.
TransCanada might have 3 myths they keep on hoping you believe, but we have 3 actions you can take that help set the record straight—the Keystone Export Pipeline is not in our national interest.
Myth #1: The route in Nebraska avoids the Sandhills, the Aquifer and “sensitive regions” of our state
TransCanada’s own map submitted to the State Department shows a larger, and more accurate, area identified as the Sandhills (click here for TransCanada’s own the map of the true width of the Sandhills). Using their own map, their pipeline STILL crosses the Sandhills.
But, when the backdoor dealing was happening on the route, Governor Heineman’s DEQ staff found a map that shrunk the Sandhills giving TransCanada a route that “appeared” they were staying true to their promise to avoid the fragile, sandy soils that we all know would be a disaster for construction and spill cleanup.
The route still crosses the Sandhills and still crosses the Aquifer. There is no question about it and we hope the State Department uses the correct map of the Sandhills or conducts a proper soil/water study to avoid the sensitive land and water.
The current proposed route also crosses the Ponca Trail of Tears, the Niobrara river, the Platte river, the Verdigree Creek, countless family wells, over 500 landowners’ private property, and puts wildlife we all love including the Sandhill Cranes, Whooping Cranes, eagles, burying beetles and trout at risk of pollution and loss of habitat (click here to see map of the route crossing these sensitive areas).
An independent, and peer-reviewed study by Dr. Stansbury shows when a spill happens in the Platte, the pollution can easily travel into our major cities and small towns water supplies.
Dr. Gates and Dr. Woldt have on various occasions in letters to the State Department to testimony at the Nebraska Legislature expressed concerns and major questions regarding sandy soil, water and the Aquifer. We have written several blogs also on this issue and yet the myth still lives perpetuated by TransCanada and press every time they say the route avoids the Sandhills, Aquifer or sensitive areas in our state.
As a reminder, Gov. Heineman asked President Obama to deny the pipeline permit stating, “Do not allow TransCanada to build a pipeline over the Ogallala Aquifer and risk the potential damage to Nebraska’s water.”
We wished Gov. Heineman had kept his word rather than flip-flopping for the sake of a foreign oil corporation. We also wished TransCanada would use their own map when avoiding the Sandhills.
Myth #2: Landowners and Nebraska citizens now support the pipeline
Nebraska is the only state where a large portion of landowners—over 100 in fact—have not signed a contract with TransCanada. The Nebraska Easement Action Team (NEAT) is represented by David Domina and is a strong group of landowners who are not playing by the rules set out by TransCanada. Landowners know they hold the power, they own the land TransCanada needs for their risky pipeline. Business as usual allows big oil corporations to run all over landowners with misleading Land Agents, ad campaigns and false promises of safety. Nebraskans refuse to play by TransCanada’s rules and oppose the pipeline and TransCanada’s consistent bullying tactics.
Here are just a few signs of pipeline fighters strong as ever:
- A strong, local pipeline ordinance was passed in Holt County.
- Three other counties are studying and forming committees on what makes sense for their towns to pass for Haul Agreements and Zoning Ordinances.
- Several “no pipeline” resolutions by both urban and rural groups like ICON were passed. SEVEN counties and townships passing “no tarsands” resolutions.
- We built a clean energy barn directly in the path of Keystone XL that actually puts more Nebraska-grown energy on our electric grid that TransCanada ever will with their pipeline.
- Stories in every outlet from Playboy, to York News Times to Lincoln Journal Star (we miss you Art) to Inside Climate to Omaha World Herald to KHAS to the New York Times, to the Washington Post to Bloomberg to Al Jazerra to Politico continued to show Nebraskans from all walks of life united as pipeline fighters.
- I testified in front of Congress and because our fight is so strong and deeply based in the grassroots, Members of Congress yelled at me and attempted to bully me as I represented Nebraska pipeline fighters.
- We held a spiritual camp on the Ponca Trail of Tears to show the bond between farmers, ranchers and Native Americans.
- Our case against LB 1161 law written by ALEC chair and TransCanada cheerleader Jim Smith (who recently refused a FOIA request which you will hear more on that soon) got its day in court with a ruling coming any day now.
- An album is being recorded by bands inside the #nokxl barn using 100% renewable energy, you can see one of those songs here with the entire album coming out in the Spring.
Landowners in other states from Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota, Kansas, Texas and Oklahoma also oppose the pipeline. However, misguided groups like Landowners for Fairness (with links to Harold Hamm in serious question) pushed ranchers and farmers to believe the pipeline was inevitable and their only choice was to sign. Because of persistent citizens, advocacy groups, strong landowners and a solid press corps, Nebraska has been able to keep the public informed and push back on myths TransCanada and their corporate front groups like Nebraskans for Jobs push to get what they want—families’ land for their corporate benefit.
A new postcard campaign sponsored by Bold Nebraska depicts over 30 landowners with hand-painted billboards on their property. The billboards were painted by folks across our state and country who know the truth about the Keystone Export Pipeline. The postcards are just the beginning of a photo series Bold is working on to show the RISKS of the pipeline. We are not just a line on a map. We are families, wildlife, water and land that has been in the hands of hard-working farmers and ranchers for generations and none of us are ready to hand that over to a foreign oil corporation so they can make money on the export market.
Myth #3: Tarsands are coming out of the ground anyway, so let’s just approve the pipeline since it’s safer than rail
TransCanada and all of their lobbyists and corporate front groups (like ALEC, AFP and Nebraskans for Jobs) love this myth. This distorted line of thinking is like telling President Obama China will pollute anyway, so why ensure refineries and big corporations can’t dump toxic substances into our water. TransCanada is living in Never Never Land if they believe President Obama can not discern this is convenient cover for a real problem that TransCanada and Canada has—they made an awful investment in tarsands and now they need a bailout to get their product to export market.
If Keystone XL got a permit, the next move by TransCanada will be to place another pipeline next to Keystone XL and another one next to Keystone 1 pipeline. Meaning, President Obama just approved about 4 million barrels of tarsands and chemicals a day moving out of Alberta to the export market. Which is essentially doubling what all pipelines and tarsands companies can get out of Alberta currently. See why this pipeline matters? See why pro-pipeline folks are spending billions to get this one approved?
The Keystone Export Pipeline alone will pump almost 1 million barrels of tarsands and chemicals a day through our land and water to refineries owned by countries like Saudi Arabia. If you say no to this pipeline, you send a clear message that business as usual just got changed. The “reliable” going through the motions of a border-crossing permit will no longer be seen as a paperwork hurdle, it will be seen for what it is: a determination by our country if this foreign pipeline is in our national interest. Just because Canada is a good trading partner does not mean allowing them to risk our land and water is a good idea. Bailing out a foreign county’s bad oil investment also does not qualify for our national interest.
Oil Change International, NRDC and financial investment group Ceres all have countless reports on how Keystone is the lynchpin piece of infrastructure needed for tarsands to expand. Even Goldman Sachs hardly an “enviro” group say Keystone XL is the lynchpin and Stansberry Investment report states tarsands are not a good investment (see page 8 of the report).
You cannot rail yourself out of the bad investment Canada made. There is just not enough rail capacity or specialized rail cars to handle the amount of tarsands they want to get to the export market (let alone American oil which is what our President should be focused on, not foreign tarsands).
Russ Girling (and pr flack Shawn Howard) should also take a step back and really ask himself if he wants to keep saying pipelines are better than rail.
When a pipeline spills, more oil and chemicals go into our land and water than an oil car from a train. The State Department report that TransCanada loves to quote says as much. So does the IEA which states pipelines spill THREE TIMES the amount than rail.
Families struck by oil pipeline spills (Kalamazoo, Mayflower, Yellowstone) and families struck by train derailments (Lac-Megantic, Casselton) do not distinguish whether their homes and lives were destroyed because of a rail or pipeline spill. The oil industry needs to slow down. An energy resource is available, but does not need to be exploited at such rapid pace. The oil isn’t going anywhere, its been there for centuries. Let’s hit the pause button in order to assess a multitude of issues from zoning ordinances, rail cars, pipeline safety, tarsands/dilbit spills, cancer rates around oil fields and impacts on small towns when “man camps” descend.
At some point, the rail companies and fellow oil industry executives who ship their products on rail every day will also have enough of the debate-dodging CEO Russ Girling and call him out for the reality that faces him and his company— they are screwed and have themselves to blame for being too greedy (reminder they were given permission to build two pipelines in the last 5 years already), too arrogant in our small towns and too quick to use tragedies in order to push their risky pipeline project.
Action #2: Keep State Senators Smith and Larson accountable, ask them to resign from ALEC
Ask them to resign from ALEC, a corporate front group that TransCanada is a big member in and actually wrote resolutions for state legislatures to pass. ALEC and their corporate donors write bills that benefit the businesses bottom line without regard to us as citizens. A nonprofit watchdog group filed an ethics complaint against Sen. Smith for failing to disclose the oil junket Smith took to visit the tarsands region. Sen. Smith presented LB 1161 as his own bill when in fact he could not even answer questions from fellow senators about the bill. He told them to ask TransCanada’s lawyer who would testify after him. We are challenging LB 1161 in court and expect to have a decision in January. Worse, Smith has now said Bold Nebraska must sue him or petition Att. Gen. Bruning in order to get copies of emails he has with ALEC, TransCanada and other front groups like Nebraskans for Jobs. Sen. Larson is no better, he is a member of ALEC. Larson represents the Sandhills and yet has done nothing to help the landowners who face eminent domain threats and risks to their livelihoods. The counties of Holt, Boyd and several townships have picked up where Larson has failed and passed their own protections at the local level. Both Smith and Larson are up for re-election in Nov. 2014.
Action #3: Attend a “Bold Meetup” in February to discuss 2014 elections, public power, pipeline and our new issue platform
Get more details on time and location for the Bold Meetups: https://www.facebook.com/BoldNebraska/events