Keystone XL vs lethal Lone Star threat




Texas Supreme Court poised to save planet. Keystone XL pipeline ruling could avert any choice by Obama

Most of the Keystone XL chatter these days is about the U.S. State Department fantasy that tapping the tar sands of Canada will be a benign blessing for America and the world. But almost no one mentions the Texas Supreme Court case that could shut the pipeline down completely – since a court ruling for the appellant could mean that the pipeline was built on property to which the pipeline owner had no rights.

If completed, the 1,700-mile Keystone pipeline is intended to bring highly-polluting tar sands oil from the Canadian tar sands to the Texas Gulf Coast, where much of it will likely be refined and shipped overseas. There is no dispute that tar sands oil (or dilbit) is a pollutant that contributes exorbitantly to climate change, but there is debate as to whether burning this oil will be more harmful to the planet than the extraction process itself in the oil pits of Northern Alberta (as in “Game Over for the Climate.”).

At issue in the Texas case is the TransCanada southern section of the pipeline, which is already built, but may be located on land to which the TransCanada corporation has no legal right. That’s the argument of the Crawford Family Farm Partnership in its 25-page petition filed with the Texas Supreme Court on November 4, 2013. The first response from TransCanada was to ask the court for a waiver from responding, in effect asking to close the case immediately.

But the Texas Supreme Court did not grant that waiver and, on January 7, 2014, ordered TransCanada to file a response by midnight on February 6 (which it has done).

Julia Trigg Crawford, in a press release for the Crawford Family Farm Partnership, characterized the court’s action as “a clear victory for pipeline opponents and landowners fighting TransCanada’s overreach on property rights.”Â  As victories go, this one is pretty limited, since all it means is that TransCanada has to make its case to the court. The court could still rule for TransCanada, as lower courts have in the past.

Eminent domain ruling could save the planet, is that ironic?  

This is an eminent domain case, not an environmental case. TransCanada used the state’s eminent domain law to take land from the Crawford Family Farm (and others from Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast) to use as the pipeline route. This corporate use of state power by a private, foreign corporation was allowed by the Texas Railroad Commission, which has an unsavory history of its own. Julia Trigg Crawford has been fighting this issue in court since 2012, losing peremptorily at the local trial court in Lamar County and again at the 6th Court of Appeals.

As the Crawford Family Farm press release explained it: “At the heart of Crawford’s case is the ability of TransCanada, a foreign corporation, to use eminent domain under the state’s ‘common carrier’ clause since their pipeline transports 90% Canadian tar sands and 10% North Dakota oil. There is no on ramp for Texas oil therefore violating the definition of a common carrier under Texas law.”

According to Texas custom, all one has to do to become a common carrier – and thereby be able to wield eminent domain power – is to check a box on a form provided by the Texas Railroad Commission, which then says OK, bud go get ’em! No proof required, no evidence requested, no fact check made, no hearing held, no questions asked. Check the box and you’re it.

The appeal, formally THE CRAWFORD FAMILY FARM PARTNERSHIP v. TRANSCANADA KEYSTONE PIPELINE, L.P., (docket no. 13-0886), argues that: “TransCanada is not a common carrier with statutory eminent domain authority and cannot condemn appellant’s property because it cannot subject itself to the provisions of Texas Natural Resource Code, Chapter 111”¦. Therefore, the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, and the trial court’s orders denying appellant’s plea to the jurisdiction and granting TransCanada’s motions for summary judgment must be reversed.”

The appeal relies in part on a Texas Supreme Court precedent known as “Denbury” (Officially, TEXAS RICE LAND PARTNERS, LTD. AND MIKE LATTA, PETITIONERS, v. DENBURY GREEN PIPELINE-TEXAS, LLC, RESPONDENT, docket no. 09-0901) decided unanimously on August 26, 2011, in which the entire conclusion stated:

“Private property is constitutionally protected, and a private enterprise cannot acquire condemnation power merely by checking boxes on a one-page form. We reverse the court of appeals’ judgment, and remand this case to the district court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.”

State Dept. tilts toward parochial profit, shrugs off global pain 

Meanwhile the 105-day comment period on the State Department’s fraudulent environmental report is running, and it’s not clear whether the Texas court will act within that time.  Wait, “fraudulent” report? Well, based on early reporting, the report is:

Intellectually fraudulent: by assessing just the pipeline element of the tar sands nexus, the report can’t possibly be meaningful. It’s like assessing an elephant based on only its left foot. When the report says, “the proposed Project [pipeline] is unlikely to significantly affect the rate of extraction in oil sands areas (based on expected oil prices, oil-sands supply costs, transport costs, and supply-demand scenarios)” – that translates into meaning something like: “Canada’s going to screw the world no matter what, so we might as well get our piece of the action.” In other words it’s an environmental report that takes no full account of the environment.

Procedurally fraudulent: according to Friends of the Earth, “the U.S. Department of State issued its long-awaited environmental review of the Keystone XL pipeline. The report was written by a dues-paying member of the American Petroleum Institute that lied on its conflict of interest disclosure form.”

Politically fraudulent: first clue, they released it late on a Friday. The main talking point was “it’s not a decision document,” but it raises no significant barrier to approving the pipeline. And the official reaction of TransCanada:

“We’re very pleased with the release and about being able to move to this next stage of the process. The case for the Keystone XL, in our view, is as strong as ever.”

TransCanada is right, the case for the pipeline is as strong as ever – which in the view of opponents was never very strong in the first place. And last spring, President Obama promised he would only approve Keystone if it “does not significantly exacerbate the climate problem.”

Well, that’s what the report says. And we’ve seen this shuck and jive before, less than a year ago.  Mission accomplished?

Or will Texas take a cue from Nebraska? 

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.

Arkansas oil spill won’t stop Keystone XL pipeline


The Arkansas oil spill and the Canadian train carrying crude oil that derailed won’t stop the Obama Administration from ok’ing the Keystone XL pipeline, no matter how much deluded liberal think if they can just get the message to Obama that this time will be different.

So, look at the Arkansas neighborhood. This is what is coming.

“We can see oil running down the road like a river,” explains a Mayflower resident. Crude oil has leaked and this is extremely unfortunate to Mayflower, Arkansas; damaging neighborhoods, and possibly endangering Lake Conrad. The size of the spill remains unclear. Faulkner County Judge Allen Dodson said the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has estimated the spill at 84,000 gallons. The EPA and the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management did not return calls for comment.

Keystone XL pipeline: US pays foxes to assess henhouse as delicious


Keystone XL and the State Department: What Is It Called When You Outsource Your Autonomy? 

So it turns out that friends of the oil industry wrote the environmental impact [1]statement[1] issued by the State Department about the Keystone XL pipeline on March 1.  That’s the report that assured people tar sands oil was going to be developed no matter what and anyway, climate change wouldn’t hurt the pipeline.

And it turns out that at least one of the several oil-friendly corporate authors was apparently paid by Trans-Canada, the corporate applicant for — and the owner of — the Keystone pipeline.

And it also turns out that the State Dept., while noting (on page 1.5-1) that as “the lead agency, the Department directed the preparation” of the impact statement, the title page lists only one person, Genevieve Walker, as “Project Manager,” along with more than 14 cooperating and assisting government agencies – and no reference to any other possible direct or indirect report authors.

And it further turns out that the State Dept., without giving credit to specific contributors for specific sections, does include – at the end of volume 2 of 4-volume, 2,000-page report – a “list of preparers,” 58 of them, almost all from three, private oil industry consulting firms.

And it finally turns out that little if any of this has appeared in mainstream media, which may be less of a surprise than it should be, since cynicism about government integrity is so widespread, one might be tempted to ask why the State Dept. made even this much effort at deception just to hide a fundamental conflict of interest that hardly seems unusual.   And news media might cynically ask, what’s the news here?

When the Conclusion Is Predictable, Who Cares Who Wrote It? 

While environmentalists and [2]others[2] promptly characterized the report’s analysis as fraudulent or worse as soon as it came out, mainstream coverage was more like [3]Fox News[3] headlining an Associated Press story the next day, “No major objections to Keystone XL oil pipeline, State Department says.”

On March 4, three days after the Friday release of the report, the Heritage Foundation complained that “Obama Administration Buries Good News on Keystone Pipeline” – basing its claim on the choice of a Friday release.  Based on the same fact of a late Friday release, the Sierra Club made the opposite claim, that the administration was trying to bury bad environmental news.   But Heritage went on to push discredited job-creation numbers, along with the false assertion that the “Keystone pipeline has passed its environmental reviews.”

The current review is not complete.  The March 1 report will be held at least until mid-April, when the 45-day public comment period ends.  Comments on the Draft SEIS [Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement] can be submitted via email to: for the next several weeks, or from the State Dept. website.

Lisa Song of [4]Inside Climate News[4] was apparently the first to write about the State Dept.’s use of highly conflicted providers when State decided not to do the work itself, for whatever reason. Â  Her March 6 article concentrates on the three main contractors in the report’s list of preparers:

  1. EnSys Energy (3 preparers) – the company’s president, Martin Tallett said “We don’t do advocacy.”Â  [5]EnSys[5] clients have included the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Dept. of Energy,  and State, as well as the World Bank, ExxonMobil, BP, Koch Industries, and the American Petroleum Institute. Â  Tallett refused to discuss the Keystone pipeline.
  1. ICF International  (7 preparers) – the company’s website client list is generic, and all categories are within the oil and gas industry.  [6]ICF[6] recently won an award for its work in “Climate Risk Management and Adaptation” for such clients as coastal cities, the World Bank, and the U.S. Agency for International Development.  ICF has more than 60 offices worldwide, employing more than 4,500 people.  The company refused to talk to a reporter.
  1. ERM, Environmental Resources Management (45 preparers) – [7]the company[7] lists clients from a wide variety of fields, including the oil industry (Chevron, Shell, Statoil, and Total).   ERM’s clients include more than half of all Global Fortune 500 companies.  The company has over 4,700 people working more than 140 offices in 39 different countries.

Wait, TransCanada Assessed the Impact of Its Own Pipeline? 

Also on March 6, Brad Johnson at Grist moved [8]the story[8] from obvious conflict of interest to something that begins to smack of fraud, at least where ERM is involved.  Under the headline “’State Department’ Keystone XL Report Actually Written by TransCanada Contractor,” Johnson links to the [9]contract[9] and [10]supporting documents[10] that lead him to conclude:

The “sustainability consultancy” Environmental Resources Management (ERM) was paid an undisclosed amount under contract to TransCanada to write the [environmental impact] statement, which is now an official government document. Â The statement estimates, and then dismisses, the pipeline’s massive carbon footprint and other environmental impacts, because, it asserts, the mining and burning of the tar sands is unstoppable”¦. 

The documents from the ERM-TransCanada agreement are on the State Department’s website, but payment amounts and other clients and past work of ERM are redacted. In the contract documents, ERM partner Steven J. Koster certifies that his company has no conflicts of interest. He also certifies that ERM has no business relationship with TransCanada or “any business entity that could be affected in any way by the proposed work” (notwithstanding the impact statement contract itself)”¦. 

On March 7, ThinkProgress [11]summarized[11] the stories by Song and Johnson, adding a detail indicating that this kind of deception was not a new pattern for TransCanada or the State Dept.:  “Several years ago, Cardno Entrix, another private consultancy, was contracted by TransCanada to handle the State Department’s initial draft of the environmental impact statement, the Department’s hearings on the pipeline, and even its Keystone XL website.

N.Y. Times Favors Climate Over Pipeline 

Without mentioning the State Dept. report’s shady underpinnings, the New York Times took two strong shots against approval of the Keystone pipeline – first in a [12]column[12] by Thomas Friedman on March 9, “No to Keystone.  Yes to Crazy.” Friedman uncharacteristically urged protestors to “go crazy”

I’m talking chain-themselves-to-the-White-House-fence-stop-traffic-at-the-Capitol kind of crazy, because I think if we all make enough noise about this, we might be able to trade a lousy Keystone pipeline for some really good systemic responses to climate change. 

The next day, the Times struck again, this time with an [13]editorial[13] urging President Obama to deny a permit to Keystone:

He should say no, and for one overriding reason: A president who has repeatedly identified climate change as one of humanity’s most pressing dangers cannot in good conscience approve a project that — even by the State Department’s most cautious calculations — can only add to the problem.

Add the likelihood that the State Dept. report is likely a collusive fraud doesn’t really improve the pipeline’s case.

And guess what?  The State Dept. position today is the same position officially expressed some 18 months ago during a press briefing related to an earlier Keystone report, when Assistant Secretary Kerri-Ann Jones [14]told[14] reporters:

I think that the sense is we have that this oil sands is going to be developed and therefore, there’s not going to be any dramatic change in greenhouse gas from this pipeline, or if the pipeline was to go forward or without the pipeline, because the oil sands will continue to be developed and there are alternatives to pipelines to moving that fuel or potential crude around. 

In other words, the government just spent however many million dollars to get oil industry consultants to come to the same conclusion the government already held in August 2011.  No wonder this story is beginning to get some traction.















Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.


Foggy Bottom shuck and jive. Keystone XL pipeline safe


Secretary of State John Kerry promised a “transparent” assessment of the Keystone XL pipeline, and now the State Department has delivered on that promise – with a transparently fraudulent [1]“environmental impact statement”[1] which, according one critic, “makes no mention of the [pipeline’s] impact on the world’s climate.”

After meeting with Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird on February 8, 2013, Kerry made his first public comments as Secretary of State about the pipeline then under review by his department.  He said, in [2]response to a question[2] about the review:  “I can guarantee you that it will be fair and transparent, accountable, and we hope that we will be able to be in a position to make an announcement in the near term.”

Environmentalist opponents of Keystone XL warned for years, as [3]anyone attentive[3] to the issue would know, that the development of tar sands oil in Canada will increase greenhouse gas emissions beyond the point where there is any hope of mitigating climate change.  Stopping the Keystone XL pipeline would not, in itself, control tar sands development.  But permitting it would mean losing control.

In evaluating the Keystone project, one of the challenges the State Department faced was credibly assessing what effect the pipeline’s operation – or more precisely the effect of burning billions of gallons of the world’s dirtiest oil over a period of 30 years or more would have on the global climate.

The first signal that the State Department report would be bad news for the climate was that it was released on March 1, on a Friday afternoon, a time when news media are often at their least attentive.

Why Would Government Ignore Impact on Climate? 

Two days after the release of the report, investigative [4]historian Eric Zuesse[4] wrote:  “The study does discuss ‘Climate Change Impacts on the Proposed Project,‘ but not the proposed project’s impacts on climate change. It finds that climate change will have no significant impact upon either the construction, or the operation, of the Pipeline.”

The State Department’s environmental impact statement, executive summary section ES.5.5, tiptoes up to the critical question of tar sands oil development:

“Finally, climate change considerations—which are influenced by GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions—could affect the construction and operation of the proposed Project. GHG and climate change issues were the subject of many comments

received during the public scoping process for the proposed Project.”

But there the analysis stops, like a shell game in which none of the shells conceal a pea.

The State Department statement (section E.S.5.5.2) concludes “that approval or denial of the proposes [Keystone] Project is unlikely to have a substantial impact on the rate of development in the oil sands, or on the amount of heavy crude oil refined in the Gulf Coast area.”

In other words, even if there were a pea under one of the shells, there’s nothing to be done about it.

The State Department’s analysis finds that there will be little impact on air quality or noise (sections 3.12 and 4.12) from the construction or operation of the pipeline.  Even better (section 4.14), the “impact of climate change effects”¦ on the construction and operation of the proposed Project itself” are virtually nil.

As the summary section (4.16) puts it:

  • Climate change would have no substantive effects on construction of the proposed Project. 
  • Climate change would have no substantive effects on the operation of the proposed Project”¦. 

Environmentalists React With Outrage, Disbelief 

So the Project, the Keystone XL pipeline, may be safe from climate change, but the State Department has nothing to say about whether the climate is safe from the Project.

The day the report came out, [5]Sierra Club’s[5] executive director Michael Brune released a statement that said:

“The Sierra Club is outraged by the State Department’s deeply flawed analysis today and what can only be interpreted as lip service to one of the greatest threats to our children’s future: climate disruption. 

“We’re mystified as to how the State Department can acknowledge the negative effects of the Earth’s dirtiest oil on our climate, but at the same time claim that the proposed pipeline will ‘not likely result in significant adverse environmental effects.’ Whether this failure was willful or accidental, this report is nothing short of malpractice.”Â 

A much longer objection came from Bold Nebraska’s executive director Jane Kleeb who argues against the State Department analysis:

“Tarsands does not expand unless Keystone XL is built. The State Department’s assumption that tarsands development does not change with or without this pipeline is wrong and laughable. Why would TransCanada spend billions on building the pipeline and millions on lobbying unless this piece of infrastructure is the–not a–but the lynchpin for the expansion of tarsands. 

“Without this pipeline Canada stays at 2 million barrels a day, with it they get 3 million barrels a day. The President has the ability to keep a million barrels of tarsands in the ground a day. With a stroke of a pen he can protect property rights, water and make a dent in climate change. This report is laughable using the wrong assumption and therefore the wrong science.”Â 

The public will have 45 days  to comment on the environmental impact report, once the State Department posts a notice in the Federal Register.  As the Department’s March 1 [6]cover letter states[6]: 

“As part of the Department’s process, members of the public, public agencies, and other interested parties are encouraged to submit comments, questions, and concerns about the project via e-mail to , at , or mailed to:

U.S. Department of State
Attn: Genevieve Walker, NEPA Coordinator
2201 C Street NW, Room 2726
Washington, D.C. 20520

The letter further explains:  “Ultimately, a determination will be made on whether this project serves the national interest. The national interest determination will involve consideration of many factors, including: energy security; environmental, cultural, and economic impacts; foreign policy; and compliance with relevant federal regulations.”

There is no reference to any global interest or any other interest.







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Keystone XL protester interrupts pipeline conference on faulty welds


Sunlight shines through faulty welds in the pipe of Keystone XL’s Gulf Coast pipeline leg, according to members of the Tar Sands Blockade, who are offering, as proof, photographs they say they took from inside the pipe on December 3.

Ramsey Sprague, a young Texan with the Blockade, dramatically made this claim at a pipeline industryconference in Houston, shortly after it got under way at the Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel in Houston Thursday morning.  He also promised that whistleblowers inside TransCanada would be coming forward withg further evidence of flaws in the pipeline.

Tom Hamilton of TransCanada is the Manager of quality and compliance for the Keystone Oil Pipeline this currently under construction in East Texas.  He had gotten a few minutes into his presentation, a case study titled “Building an ISO 9001 Pipeline System: TransCanada’s Gulf Coast Project” when he was interrupted by Sprague, who had managed to chain himself to the conference loudspeaker towers.

Wearing a suit and tie and a cowboy hat, Sprague had not drawn attention while he sat through the first part of the program.  As described on the Tar Sands Blockade web page, as described by the cameraman whodocumented the event:

“Ten minutes into Hamilton’s time at the podium, Ramsey stood up and chained himself to the sound equipment positioned next to the projection screen, quickly delving into an impassioned speech on the irony of TransCanada lecturing others on safety and compliance. The audience sat silent, cameras aimed at this impromptu act, as security officials attempted to address the situation without having to clear the room. 

“ As Ramsey spoke against TransCanada’s horrific safety record, as well as its treatment of indigenous communities and others whose land and lives are being adversely affected by tar sands extraction, authorities escorted him out of the assembly and into police custody. After being detained by three Montgomery County sheriffs for documenting the act (and subsequent arrest), I was given a trespass warning and told to leave the property immediately.”

No Public Comment Yet from TransCanada 

TransCanada has not yet publicly responded to questions about the charge that their pipeline in Texas has faulty welds which would make it likely to leak as soon as it’s put into service.

Tom Hamilton’s scheduled case study of the Gulf Coast pipeline project was expected to focus on pipeline safety.  As billed in the conference program,

“Mr. Hamilton has supplied technical consulting services to a wide range of pipeline clients in the fields of quality management systems, welding and NDE, above and below ground protective coatings, cathodic protection system design, specifications, system installation and performance affirmation, corrosion control troubleshooting, and pipeline system integrity management.”Â Â 

The bullet points of his talk included:

  • Reviewing the current progress of Keystone’s Gulf Coast segment 
  • How have ISO 9001 requirements impacted pipeline design, construction, and delivery? 
  • Overcoming the challenges associated with bringing new processes into large diameter pipeline projects built by third-party contractors 
  • Right the first time – Highlighting best practices that have seen safety, quality and environmental stewardship improve while remaining on time and on budget 
  • Discussing how ISO 9001 quality management systems aid in managing expectations when engaging and educating stakeholders 

ISO refers to the International Organization for Standardization and ISO 9001 requirement are “generic and are intended to be applicable to all organizations, regardless of type, size and product provided.”

Sprague’s Critique Was Underscored by Dave Brubeck

While he was chained to the speakers, Sprague shouted warnings to the audience about the dangers the pipeline represents, but there was little or no response from the crowd.  He also spoke quietly and politely to a few people who approached him.  The interruption of the conference lasted only a little longer than the eight minutes that were recorded.

While he was talking, Sprague described the events of December 3, 2012, when pipeline opponents blockades themselves inside the pipeline for about a day before they were forced out.  During that time they took pictures from the inside showing light coming through the pipe welds.  According to the Tar Sands Blockade:  “That mile-long section of the pipe was laid in the ground on the same day; no additional welding or inspection occurred after the photos were taken.”

For several minutes Sprague had to shout loudly to project his voice over loud music played by the conference, selections by the Dave Brubeck Quartet. Â  Once organizers  brought bolt cutters and cut Sprague loose, he was escorted from the room as he told people in the hallways, “TransCanada should not be lecturing about pipeline safety.”