Friday, November 14, 2014

Sierra Club sues US to stop new tar sands pipeline

A number of environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and the National Wildlife Federation, have sued the State Department over its failure to protect the US from Canadian tar sands oil. At issue is a pipeline, called the Alberta Clipper, currently bringing oil across the border at a rate of 450,000 barrels a day. Enbridge Energy wants to increase the volume of oil to 800,000 barrels per day.

The State Department has ruled that the new pipeline does not need its approval, despite nearly doubling the amount of tar sands oil entering the US. The Sierra Club suit disagrees with their assessment.

The State Department is clearly at odds with President Obama's public statements on this. Obama promised he would not permit more tar sands into the country if the project would increase greenhouse gas production. The State Department study claimed it would not. But practical considerations prove that it would.

The State Department study claimed that the tar sands oil could be transported by rail if the Keystone XL Pipeline is not built. But attempts to use railroads have proven costly. Instead of earning $40 per barrel of oil shipped by rail as it predicted, Southern Pacific Resources is earning less than one dollar per barrel. The failure of its oil-by-rail strategy has driven Southern Pacific to the edge of bankruptcy.

Since the State Department's study relied on the viability of the oil-by-rail strategy to reach its conclusion that Keystone XL would have no effect on greenhouse gas production, the entire study must now be rejected as false. Instead of proving that the Keystone XL pipeline would not harm the environment, the State Department has proved that it will. And President Obama has promised he would not approve the Keystone XL under these conditions.

Democratic Senators have completely caved in to Oil Industry demands. They are proposing to approve the Keystone XL despite the State Department's fiasco. The Senators say they are acting to save Senator Mary Landrieu's seat for the Democrats. What they are really doing is the bidding of the oil industry.

The oil industry is getting desperate. The tar sands in Alberta are the third largest proven oil deposit in the world. But tar sands are expensive to refine and destructive to the environment. The oil industry needs Keystone XL to extract this poisonous wealth. Right now they are losing their battle.

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