Company claims pipeline has no impact on climate change

Feb 22, 2013

Taking a new “global warming” approach, TransCanada, the company hoping to build a pipeline from western Canada to Texas, is working to sway environmentalists opposed to the project.

Alex Pourbaix, TransCanada’s president for energy and oil pipelines, said opponents of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline have grossly inflated the potential impact on emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) that contribute to global warming.

According to the company, Keystone XL would have minimal impact on the environment. This conclusion, according to the company, is supported by both the U.S. Department of State’s Final Environmental Impact Statement and the Nebraska Re-route Evaluation Report.

“We agree with President Obama when he said last week we need to transition toward more sustainable sources of energy and greater energy independence. That’s why TransCanada has invested over $5 billion in emissionfree energy. But a complete transition to renewable energy will take decades,” concluded Pourbaix. “The oil sands and their greenhouse gas emissions impact have been overstated. As the respected Nature Science Journal stated the other week, Keystone XL will not determine whether or not the oil sands will be developed. Nor is oil from the oil sands as ‘dirty’ as many believe. Nature Science Journal concluded heavy oil from California is actually worse.”

Even if oil sands production doubled in the coming years as the resource continues to be developed, total global GHG emissions remain extremely low at two tenths of 1 percent, according to the company. Through continuous technological improvements, oil sands producers have reduced per barrel emissions by 26 percent since 1990. Alberta, where the oil sands are located, is the only jurisdiction in North America that has a carbon tax and the Canadian federal government has committed to phasing out all coal-fired power facilities.

But the company has an uphill battle on its hands to convince some.

Pourbaix’s comments came two days after a pipeline rally drew an estimated 35,000 people to Washington. Environmental activists billed the event as the largest climate rally in U.S. history. Thousands of people marched past the White House to urge President Obama to reject the pipeline and take other steps to fight climate change.

Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University, said Pourbaix’s comments appeared to be based on “some rather rosy assumptions.”

Some ranchers and farmers from Nebraska also joined in the Washington rally, with a few even spending some time in jail with other protesters.

“[Last week], four Nebraskans joined with national leaders including Julian Bond, Robert Kennedy Jr. and Bill McKibben, to show a strong coalition of Americans asking our president to reject Keystone XL and begin serious action on climate change. Civil disobedience has a long history in our country of ordinary citizens taking a stand on critical issues facing our country. Tarsands threatens our land, water and property rights. We are confident the president will do right by ranchers and right by our country’s path to clean energy,” Jane Kleeb with Bold Nebraska said.

Reuters reported 48 protesters were arrested and released on $100 bail. Of the 48, four are associated with Nebraska’s cattle industry: Randy Thompson, James Tarnick, Abbi Kleinschmidt and Susan Luebbe.

“I am fighting against the KXL pipeline for two very basic reasons. First of all, I feel very strongly that this pipeline represents an assault on the individual property rights of American citizens. There is something inherently wrong about the idea of American landowners being forced to subsidize the private enterprise of a foreign corporation with land that their families have earned through generations of hard work and determination. Secondly, I feel that the KXL presents a real threat to some of our nation’s most valuable natural resources, especially our rivers, streams and underground aquifers. These are priceless American assets that no amount of oil money, foreign or otherwise, could ever replace,” Thompson said.

“As a third generation cowgirl from the Sand Hills of Nebraska I have worked hard with others to get KXL off our ranch. I want to take this risk of arrest with many other landowners, and indigenous tribal members from Canada through the United States to end this fight.

I want to make an impact in this fight for residents of Canada’s tar sands region to Eleanor Fairchild’s Texas property. TransCanada’s project cuts right through the heart of environmental sensitive land and cultural history. I want the future generation to see what it takes to fight for something so precious that our ancestors worked so hard to build for all of us,” said Luebbe. Luebbe was featured in “Pipe Dreams,” a documentary, and is also one of the landowners in the lawsuit against the state of Nebraska on the pipeline route and eminent domain authority.

Despite the protests, TransCanada says Keystone XL is the most studied cross-border pipeline ever proposed, and it remains in America’s national interests to approve a pipeline that will have a minimal impact on the environment.

TransCanada Corporation and supporters of the pipeline also gathered in D.C. last week to reiterate their stand that the pipeline remains vital to the national interest of the U.S., increasing energy security, advancing energy independence, creating jobs and fuelling economic recovery. Joining Trans- Canada were representatives from the National Association of Manufacturers, Veterans in Piping, the United Association, API, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Michels – the primary contractor responsible for the current construction of the Gulf Coast Project.

“The quality and commitment of those standing with me today demonstrates how vital this project is to U.S. national energy security, the economy and the average American worker,” said Pourbaix. “Approval of Keystone XL hinges on one fundamental fact: does the U.S. want its oil from a friendly neighbor in Canada and domestic sources like the Bakken play, or does it want to continue to import higherpriced foreign oil from nations that do not support U.S. values—it is that simple.”

The U.S. consumes 15 million barrels of oil each day and imports eight to nine million barrels. Both the U.S. Energy Information Administration and the International Energy Agency have forecast imports will remain in the 3.5-7.5 million barrels per day range well into 2035.

According to the company, Keystone XL and the Gulf Coast Project have the capacity to displace 830,000 barrels per day (bbl/d) of unstable foreign crude oil. “We have dedicated 250,000 bbl/d of capacity to U.S. production— a critical need for states such as Montana and North Dakota,” the company said in a release.

Besides supporting longterm U.S. energy security, Pourbaix points out the many benefits of Trans- Canada’s multi-billion dollar oil pipeline system, the main benefit being jobs. The company is currently employing 4,000 American workers building the Gulf Coast Project in Texas and Oklahoma, welders, mechanics, electricians, laborers, safety coordinators, heavy equipment operators, the list goes on. One of those workers who is benefitting from the construction of this project is Billy Rogers.

“Working on the Gulf Coast Project has afforded me a good income that allows me to support my family,” said Michels’ employee, and member of the Operating Engineers Local 139, Rogers. “In addition, the construction of this project has had a significant impact in the local communities in which we work as the hundreds of crew members spend their money locally in restaurants, grocery stores, shops; everyone is benefiting.

“Contrary to what people may see or read, as a front line worker on the Gulf Coast Project, I have personally witnessed the support from the local residents we deal with daily during construction. They are happy to see us.”

The United Association (UA) agrees with Rogers, saying Keystone XL is a lifeline for their thousands of members.

“With over 50 percent unemployment in our Pipeline Construction sector, Keystone XL Pipeline Project stands as the largest single private investment opportunity for a path back to a paycheck for our members,” said UA Special Representative David Barnett.

“As a veteran, I know firsthand the anxiety of returning to my family and community after serving in combat and uncertain how I will make ends meet,” said training specialist, Veterans in Piping, Mike Hazard. “The UA’s Veterans in Piping initiative is training veterans returning from Afghanistan and other far off places for jobs on the Keystone XL pipeline project. If Keystone XL isn’t approved, the U.S. will continue to rely on oil from unstable regimes instead of strengthening our relationship with Canada. Continuing to rely on oil from unstable political regimes would be counter intuitive to the values and ideals that inspire the volunteer spirit of the American military.”

According to the company, the $5.3 billion Keystone XL pipeline would put another 9,000 Americans to work constructing the line. Besides the construction jobs, the steel pipe, thousands of fittings, hundreds of valves, fabrication of piping assemblies and structural steel for supports, and thousands of other pieces of equipment used to build such things as transformers for pumping stations, large electric motors, electrical equipment to connect the vast pipeline monitoring systems are also needed.

TransCanada alone has contracts with over 50 suppliers across the U.S. Manufacturing locations for our equipment include: Texas, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Indiana, Georgia, Maryland, New York, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Ohio, Arkansas, Kansas, California and Pennsylvania.

“Our Gulf Coast Project that is currently being constructed to deliver U.S. crude oil to U.S. refineries is over 45 percent complete. To date, workers have completed more than 1.25 million hours of the over four million hours needed to construct this US$2.3 billion project. That doesn’t include the millions of hours worked by those producing all the components needed to build such a large piece of energy infrastructure. Close to $1.2 billion worth of goods for the pipeline have been sourced from U.S. manufacturers,” the company stated.

But that portion is not without its own controversy.

Julia Trigg Crawford owns 650 acres, with TransCanada wanting a small portion for its line.

“I don’t think they have a right to take it,” she said. “I mean if it was 650 inches or something, I wouldn’t want them to take it,” she told CBS evening news. Crawford turned down a $21,000 offer from Trans- Canada, and is currently in a lawsuit with the company.

Other ranchers in the area are ok with the pipeline.

“I’ve got one line that’s coming across the backside of me and my cattle are eating on top of it, and it’s not hurting them any, so I don’t see how this can hurt them any,” rancher Henry Duncan told CBS.

Obama has called climate change a serious threat and has urged Congress to combat it. In his State of the Union address last week, Obama said he will use executive authority to cut GHG if Congress fails to act.

Obama has delayed the Keystone XL pipeline two different times because of concerns over its route through Nebraska, but has yet to respond to the new route approved by Nebraska’s governor last month.

Blaming politics for much of the pipeline’s four years of delays, supporters rallied around the company in D.C. last week.

“If you want to know why Americans are frustrated with Washington, you only need to look at Keystone project and the inexcusable bureaucracy and red tape,” said NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons. “In the State of the Union address and on the campaign trail, President Obama spoke a great deal about economic recovery and an ‘all-of-theabove’ energy policy. It’s beyond time for those words to be met with action. In a struggling economy, we must not pass up clear opportunities to create jobs and jumpstart growth. The Keystone XL pipeline will create thousands of manufacturing jobs while providing a supply of affordable energy to enhance manufacturers’ competitiveness. Keystone XL has been held up for far too long, we need approval immediately.”

“There is strong public support for Keystone XL,” said API Executive Vice President Marty Durbin. “A recent poll we conducted reports that 69 percent, more than two-thirds, of registered voters support building the pipeline. There’s also strong support among elected officials. A bipartisan majority of U.S. senators and a bipartisan group of 146 House members have recently written

to the president calling on him to approve the project. Labor groups are also on board. The Keystone XL pipeline project just makes sense and should be approved without further delay.” — Traci Eatherton, WLJ Editor