Last week I went on Huffington Post Live with landowners Julia and Gabe as well as General Anderson for a “boots vs suits” discussion. The host Alicia Menendez asked great questions which spurred the General to explain “Americans should be outraged” by the misinformation TransCanada states in their ads and to landowners. We agree. You can watch the 1/2 hour show below.

Other news developing includes the very tough landowner Mike Bishop in Texas taking on TransCanada as well as the Texas Railroad Commission in court. The Texas Attorney General is trying to throw Bishop’s case out saying he does not have “standing” to bring the case forward. Funny. That is the same thing Nebraska’s Attorney General cited for the citizen case brought against our state on LB 1161.

We might see a State Department Environmental Impact Study (EIS) as early as this week. We will be looking for a fair assessment of impacts on landowners and rural towns along the route including the impacts of the contract terms TransCanada has forced on landowners. National groups are watching for an accurate climate study. We want to see a clear, non-biased, study on the impacts to water. We have been waiting for a full disclosure of all chemicals potentially transported in this pipeline. Any data used by contractos HDR and Cardno Entrix should be thrown out because its been written for an by TransCanada’s interests. We have a right to know this basic information for a project families would live with forever since TransCanada has in their contract they will abandon the pipeline in place.

New Events

Join the Grinch and Cindy Lou Who as they make a delivery to Gov. Heineman on Christmas Eve at noon at the Governors mansion in Lincoln.

Make an oil spill panel or join us in DC on Feb. 17th to make sure the President hears and see us.

NEAT team members are holding meetings all week in the Sandhills and are hosting a NEAT landowner only meeting to discuss next steps (Dec. 20th 2012 at the York Library, 3-5pm and Jan. 4th 2013 at the O’Neill Community Center, 5-7pm).

News & Developments

TransCanada has long been claiming that there is no difference between crude oil and the tar sands, but this week the differences have been put on display.  Big Oil companies have long made this irrational argument despite the fact that IRS classifies dilbit differently from traditional crude, as does Congress. But this week, a Texas landowner and the Los Angeles Times editorial board made sure TransCanada and the American public were aware of the critical distinctions. 

This week, the Los Angeles Times editorialized that TransCanada’s “’dilbit’ problem” is the sticking point for the company’s Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. The editorial board said, “Bitumen is a tarry substance derived from oil sands that forms a sticky solid at room temperature; moving it through a pipeline requires pressure and dilution, usually using benzene, a carcinogen. Environmentalists claim bitumen is more corrosive than crude oil and poses more risks to pipelines, though engineers tend to disagree; meanwhile, there is no question that it behaves differently in the environment. For one thing, crude oil tends to float on water, whereas bitumen usually sinks. This has created a serious environmental problem in Michigan, where a 2010 spill on the Kalamazoo River sent hundreds of thousands of gallons of bitumen to the bottom; ongoing cleanup has cost more than $800 million, making it the most expensive onshore pipeline spill in U.S. history.”

Lincoln Journal Star covers the serious concerns of tribal communities in Nebraska on the proposed route. Their ancestors resting places are scattered all along this proposed route. The Ponca’s Trail of Tears crosses this proposed route at least twice. There is simply no good route when it comes to tarsands.

“Dilbit” (or tarsands) has come into the spotlight because Texas landowner Retired Marine Michael Bishop filed a Pro Se lawsuit against TransCanada Keystone Pipeline, which has started work on the southern portion of the proposed line from Hardisty, Alberta, Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast.  In the suit, Bishop claims that TransCanada has intentionally misled and misrepresented the project to Americans and Texas landowners.   

The LA Times piece says of the case, “At the heart of Bishop’s case is the fact that although TransCanada considers bitumen and crude oil to be essentially the same, the IRS disagrees. In fact, it exempts companies that transport bitumen derived from tar sands from an 8-cents-a-barrel tax levied on transporters of crude. TransCanada can’t reasonably claim this tax exemption while pretending it’s moving crude oil. More important, we’d like to see the State Department, which is conducting an environmental study of the northern portion of the Keystone XL route, include some analysis of any heightened risks posed by transporting dilbit.”

In a letter mailed to President Obama last week, 18 Nebraskans responded to the 18 US Senators who asked the President for a meeting on the Keystone XL pipeline by requesting their own “Beer and Beef Summit” to discuss their concerns about the tar sands pipeline. These 18 landowners are major stakeholders in the project, whose lives and lands will be affected should the tar sands pipeline get approved. Susan Dunavan, a Nebraska landowner who signed the letter said, “As a grandmom whose land is in the path of the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, I challenge [President Obama] to meet with the Nebraska 18, ordinary citizens who do not have an “agenda” to further a political career or promote huge foreign corporations.  Please meet with those of us who care about the future of our land and water, our state and our country… a future that money and influence cannot buy.  Please meet with the citizens of the State of Nebraska who want a future for our children, our grandchildren and those yet unborn.”

President Obama has made it clear time and again that climate change—and his climate legacy—will be a focus of his second term. Just the other day, Van Jones said that climate “is going to be the issue that he’s judged on.” So far, the President and his administration have given little indication that it will consider the serious impacts the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline will have on climate change.

A Bloomberg BusinessWeek article confirms what environmental advocates have long been saying, an Environmental Impact Study of the pipeline will be meaningless without a climate assessment. “The U.S. environmental assessment of a new Keystone XL pipeline route from Canada will be meaningless unless it considers the effect mining of oil sands has on climate change, opponents of the project said,” the article reads. It continues, “The State Department may release within days the updated review of the path from Alberta to the Gulf Coast proposed by TransCanada Corp. (TRP) President Barack Obama rejected a route that crossed an aquifer in Nebraska. Environmentalists say producing oil from Alberta’s tar sands releases more carbon dioxide than conventional drilling, worsening global warming. The review will be “a meaningless document unless it includes a serious review of the very serious climate impacts of the tar sands development the pipeline will trigger,” Trey Pollard, a spokesman for the Sierra Club, said in a statement.”

Quotes of the Week

  • “I’m fighting for the little guy out here who can’t fight for himself. They can put you through the financial wringer. But in the end, we will prevail. He said he’s hoping that he not only succeeds in his case, but that others join in. If I prevail in this suit, this is going to open the door for every landowner from Canada down to the refineries [to sue the company]. And I don’t think TransCanada can handle that.” – Mike Bishop, landowner suing TransCanada
  • “While none of us carry a prestigious nametag other than farmer, rancher, mom, dad, grandma or grandpa, we too represent the concerns of a lot (of) folks here at home. ” –The Nebraska 18