Friday afternoon is known for “the dump,” when news is released to the media that the government would prefer that no one knows. Today’s Friday dump is the release of the State Department’s report indicating that the Keystone XL oil pipeline won’t significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions, giving the disastrous project a stamp of approval. Their theory is that oil sands extraction will continue even without the pipeline so sending crude oil across the entire United States in shoddy, leaky pipes doesn’t make any difference.
The report stated that the transport of 830,000 barrels of oil daily would annually add an extra 1.3 million to 27.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Headlines about the report, however, have ignored this disaster.
Today’s State Department statement concerns the 1,179-mile northern leg that would carry heavy crude from Canada into Montana and run to the small town of Steele City (NE). TransCanada started shipping oil through the southern leg of the Keystone pipeline.
The decision is still not made, and people who think that future generations deserve a planet to live on, will loudly proclaim the worsening climate change caused by the pipeline project. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) is one Congressional member who spoke out against the project, but the 20-term representative won’t be running again for the House again this year.
Eight government agencies now have 90 days to weigh in on the project; the public has only 30 days for comment. President Obama makes the final decision because it crosses a border from another country. He said that he would do this only if it would not “significantly exacerbate carbon emissions,” and he’s waited five years to make his decision.
The State Department also has a problem with the report that its Office of Inspector General is compiling regarding conflicts of interest with a contractor who helped develop the benign environmental impact statement. Some legislators asked the State Department to hold off on issuing its report until after the Inspector General had finished, but that didn’t happen.
During his presidency, Obama has displayed a quiet support for fossil fuels and their transport in the nation. During his second election year, the president issued an executive order that called for an expedited review of the southern half of the pipeline from Cushing (OK) to Port Arthur (TX). Less than two years later, the segment opened, despite the multiple holes allowing leaks in the pipe. Last year President Obama appointed a former petroleum engineer for Mobil Oil Company as the Secretary of Interior.
Conservatives in the country demanding the pipeline for additional oil in the United States fail to understand that the tar sands sent across the nation and refined on the Gulf Coast will then be exported with most of it leaving the U.S. As a result, people in the U.S. will pay more for their gas, as much as $3 to $4 billion a year. Because the pipeline bypasses the Midwest, people there will be paying as much as $.40 a gallon more.
When the pipeline crosses land near them, however, some people grasped the seriousness of the situation and opposed it, with little effect. Michael Bishop (Douglas, TX) lives 120 feet from pipeline construction. Last year, he filed a lawsuit last year, claiming that the president’s fast-tracking broke environmental laws because Nationwide Permit 12 does not permit “activities that result in more than minimal individual and cumulative adverse effects on the aquatic environment.”
One little-considered impact from the pipeline is how it affects the people whose environments change from a stable community to the towns that pop up because of pipeline construction. The project will greatly impact Native American women in states with large Indian populations such as South Dakota. These women are two and a half more times likely to be sexually assaulted—many times from white men—than women of any other race. Groups trying to mitigate this violence are concerned that pipeline construction will endanger these women even more.
Native women are already considered easy targets for rapists, and men who know that they are not a permanent part of the community are even less likely to believe that they can be held accountable for their crimes. Spikes of violence in pop-up cities has already been documented in regions affected by resource booms. Large groups of men, for example in areas connected with the oil and gas industry, increase the incidence of sexual assault. Marginalized communities are frequently affect disproportionately by the crimes of rape, sexual assault, and domestic violence.
South Dakota is currently a sex tourism destination and magnet for sex trafficking and sexual abuse. Native women are involved in approximately 40 percent of the cases because a “Wild West” culture combined with the gas and oil boom creates a defiant atmosphere of lawlessness. The pipeline will make this problem far worse.
Everyone will suffer, however, if the pipeline spills into the Ogallala Aquifer, which supplies 83 percent of Nebraska’s irrigation water. In addition, the Interior Department submitted a report to the State Department explaining how the pipeline would have “permanent impacts on wildlife” and seriously affect National Park Service lands and Historic Trails.
About two months ago, Milford (TX) was evacuated after a massive explosion of a 10-inch Chevron natural gas pipeline near a drilling rig. The fire, with an unknown cause, raged for over a day. A month later, a TransCanada natural gas pipeline exploded in Manitoba, shutting off gas for 4,000 residents in sub-zero Canadian temperatures. Sometimes explosions are the only way that gas leaks are discovered. Leak-detection software, special alarms and 24/7 control room monitoring leaks just 19.5 percent of the time, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
TransCanada forecast that its first crude oil pipeline, Keystone 1, would leak no more than an average of 1.4 times over a decade. Instead, it had 14 U.S. spills in a single year, and federal regulators had to temporarily shut it down. Since 1986, according to a ProPublica investigation, U.S. pipeline accidents have killed more than 500 people, injured over 4,000, and cost nearly $50 billion in property damages.
That’s what the State Department says is appropriate for the United States.