In Texas, the Tar Sands Blockade delayed but could not stop the southern leg of the Keystone. Tar Sands Blockade
In Texas, the Tar Sands Blockade delayed but could not stop the southern leg of the Keystone. Tar Sands Blockade

Across North America, the debate over the Keystone XL pipeline continues to heat up. Several years after the tar sands line was due to be completed, owners are still awaiting word on whether the White House and U.S. State Department will sign off on the project.

And that’s almost two months after release of what is supposed to be the final environmental study on the last leg of the massive project to bring the sludgy, toxin-heavy product called tar sands bitumen from Alberta to refineries on the Texas coast. Rather than settling questions about environmental impact and jobs creation, the study seems only to have solidified supporters and opponents in their arguments.

“Anyone who could look at the summary report and not see it as a clear justification for denying the permit just isn’t looking at the report,” said Rita Beving, a long time anti-pipeline activist.


“Time to build the pipeline,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said repeatedly in a series of speeches around the country shortly after the report’s release.

The Keystone XL would bring Trans-Canada’s pipeline across the U.S.-Canadian border and south to Nebraska, where it would connect to an existing pipeline and then to the project’s southern leg, which runs from Oklahoma down the length of East Texas to Houston-area refineries. The refined products would then be delivered by pipeline to Port Arthur for overseas export.

Opposition to the pipeline has been growing. More than 400 protesters were arrested after chaining themselves to the White House fence on March 3. Native American tribes in Nebraska and South Dakota have blocked roads through their lands to keep tar sands machinery from crossing their territory, and new protests are planned for April and beyond.

In Texas, protest groups of environmentalists and landowners fought the southern section of the pipeline in the courts and in front of state agencies, building tree-house encampments across the line’s expected route and locking themselves to pipe sections and construction equipment. Despite their efforts, the pipeline went into operation in December.

The report released Jan. 31 was two years in the making, ordered by President Barack Obama, who asked for a study of the pipeline’s effects on climate change, jobs to be created, and national security issues.

When the report went up for public comment, opponents sent more than two million objections to the State Department. And proponents launched a multimillion-dollar campaign of TV commercials touting the importance of the line to this country’s energy independence and claiming that a quarter of a million jobs were at stake.

The 11-volume report has done little to clarify the major issues surrounding the pipeline — perhaps not surprising, given how the report was prepared. Most of it was written by ICF International, a consulting firm with close ties to Trans-Canada. The pipeline company paid for the study, though it was overseen by an agency within the State Department — a common practice that nonetheless raised some hackles. That, in turn may explain some of the logic of the report’s findings.

The most critical conclusion may be that the Keystone wouldn’t be a major contributor to climate change. On similar sections of the line — operated by different companies but carrying the same tar sands bitumen — pipe breaks and leaks have already caused massive environmental damage.

The report acknowledges that development of the Canadian tar sands will have a huge effect on climate change. But the report’s authors concluded that such development will happen regardless of whether the pipeline is built and that any method of shipping will have some environmental impact. Therefore, they wrote, the pipeline itself won’t make much difference to the climate picture — adding only about as much as the annual exhaust from 300,000 vehicles.

Danielle Droitch, Canadian project director of the National Resources Defense Council, disagreed with those findings.

“The only other way to move the tar sands bitumen would be by rail, and rail is … significantly more expensive,” she said. Without the pipeline, tar sands development won’t draw investors nearly as fast. “It wouldn’t make financial sense.”

She also said that if the pipeline is built, its sensors will only be able to detect leaks of about half a million gallons or more.

“That is an enormous amount of tar sands to go undetected,” Droitch said.

The report predicted that even a huge spill would spread no farther than about half a mile, yet the Enbridge spill in Michigan in 2010 poisoned 40 miles of the Kalamazoo River and is still not cleaned up.

“And remember, this pipeline is set to cross more than 1,000 waterways, miles of floodplains, and two major aquifers, including the Ogallala,” Beving said. “No one, no matter how they try to downplay it, can deny that this is a danger to those vital water sources.”

TransCanada did not respond to phone calls or e-mails for this story. But the American Petroleum Institute, a nonprofit that lobbies the government on all aspects of oil and natural gas production, has issued statements on the report.

“During more than five years of review, five exhaustive environmental assessments have concluded that the Keystone XL pipeline is safe for the environment,” institute president and CEO Jack Gerard said in a recent e-mail that was widely circulated. “It’s time to focus on the benefits the Keystone XL will bring.”

On the jobs front, the report suggests that, if the project goes forward, about 2,000 jobs will be created during two years’ worth of construction. The total number of permanent new jobs anticipated by TransCanada: 35.

But the report’s authors also estimated that another 41,000 temporary jobs would be created in industries that would provide support to the pipeline crews — people to build camps in remote areas, jobs on ranches that will be raising extra beef, gas stations pumping more gas That number is never further explained, however.

Opponents of the line point out that construction of the southern leg, from Cushing, Okla., to Houston, produced almost none of the 100,000 such support jobs that had been predicted in this part of the country.

“The report completely dismantles the jobs argument,” said Anthony Swift, a lawyer specializing in oil and gas issues with the National Resources Defense Council. “The number of jobs in the construction of the line is about the same as you would have in building a medium-size mall.”

Beving said she’s looked for Keystone’s supposed benefits and can’t find them. “The pipeline is affecting Americans and American property — farms and timberland and other private property — for a Canadian company that’s going to export their product with no benefit to the U.S. Why on earth would we want to do that?”

There’s about a month left of a 90-day review period that began when the report was released, during which time Obama and the State Department are supposed to decide whether the pipeline is in the national interest. However, the State Department has given no timeline for a decision.

Throwing an extra kink in the proceedings is a recent Nebraska appellate court ruling that the governor of that state does not have power to approve the line. The state has appealed that decision to the Nebraska Supreme Court, and no actual route through Nebraska exists until the state court decides the issue. That could potentially slow the approval process considerably.  In other words, it might be several months before a final decision is made on the Keystone XL.


  1. Oh yes, lets not do anything that would help the US. Let the idiot libs give this opportunity to China of someone else. That would help further tear the US down wouldn’t it? We sure wouldn’t want to do something that would make sense.

    • Didn’t actually read the story, did you Loyd? The refined products are already contracted largely to China. 35 permanent jobs. Port Arthur is an international free port, so no taxes. That’s what the report says, not what we say.

  2. We’re gonna run this here pipeline right through yer front yard, pardner and you ain’t got nothin tuh say about it. So why don’t you and yer tree huggin’ greencreep Bobby Kennedy Jr. libbtards from up North just SHUDDUP! What are you some kind a’ commanist ‘er summthin’? Ain’t gonna hurt nobody! Have some tar sand! It’s good fer ya! I’m gonna cook my chicken fried steaks right over it! This is Texas! Now accept this new Corvette as a token of our appreciation, suck down a few Lone Star beers and go inside and watch women’s wrestling. Stop questioning everything! It ain’t good fer bidness!

  3. I find it funny how an idiotic liberal is using sarcasm in order to portray stereotypes about conservatives, if the USA was controlled by you wannabe adults, this country would only benefit the rich because these are the only people who can purchase green “affordable” products that “save” people money.

    Keep up the good work with your stupid comments, it just makes you look retarded (but then again you are a liberal so you cannot really help it)

  4. I would rather stay a child and keep my self respect if being an adult means being like you. You are obviously so tight assed and humorless that I doubt it would be possible to get a sewing needle up your anus with a Ball Peen hammer. If the USA was controlled by people like you we would probably be forcing a mandatory christian education program on all public schoolchildren, privatizing Social Security so that the Wall Street fat cats can get their greedy hands on it and make it go bankrupt in about 2-3 years, stop all of these “invasive” and “restrictive” government labor laws and EPA legislation so that corporations can continue to treat employees like slave labor and run unsafe gulags masquerading as places of employment. You retro conservative Ted Nugent types continue to act as if you secretly wish we could revert back to the days of the Eisenhower cold war administration where a woman’s place was in the home, everybody had a house in the suburbs, men acted and dressed like Ward Cleaver, negroes sat in the back of the bus and our entire society was a paranoid plethora of MacCarthy hearing witnesses. Hop in your 4 x 4 king cab pickup with the 692 cubic inch monster motor, the huge tires, shotgun rack, NRA stickers and KKK application forms in your glove box. Go ahead and run over some left wing scumbag libbtards in the stockyards this weekend. That’ll teach ’em! Go back tuh new Jersey ‘er wherever it is you come from, hippie! Get a rope!

  5. Your comment just proves the fact that most liberals are blinded by liberal propaganda. I would NEVER support religion being taught in schools because not everyone has the same belief, and there are also those who do not have any beliefs, In my opinion everyone should be respected, but I am positive that you would not agree with that (based of off how you are responding to my other comment)

    Just In case you were not aware, not ALL conservatives are religious, and not all the religious conservatives are “Christians” (it seems that you only recognize the religion of Christianity but this just shows how ignorant you are towards absorbing information)

    How idiotic are you? I am against racist people, I acknowledge that some republicans are the type of people that still believe in white supremacy, but this is why I vote for the educated republicans, not the idiotic/ignorant ones. Another thing is that both parties have idiots, if you cannot acknowledge that, then you must be a very dull person. And I want you to know that I am not a white person, so get rid of the part of your brain that makes you delusional and believe that all conservatives are white people, in the Northside of Fort Worth (where I live) there are many republican supporters whom are of different ethnicities (so again not all republicans are white) I have seen Asian, Hispanic, African American, Arab republican supporters but if you still want to believe that all republicans are white people, then feel free to believe that you have every right to express your own opinion.

    Just in case you were not aware, Texas which has a strong stable economy (the most stable economy in the USA) got out of the recession that is still affecting states like California up to this day, another thing that I want to inform you about is that I believe that in order to live a wealthy life, you must put an effort into getting an education and not slack off, I bet you would find it very offensive if you worked your butt off in getting and education and at the end find out that a poor person who slacked off in school is living in a luxurious residential building and is provided with everything that you have. I am not against helping the poor who NEED help but I disagree that the government and our taxes should baby those who take advantage of the system or want to take the easy way in life. So continuing on my rant (about Texas’s economic power) Texas is now the biggest technology/ goods exporter in the USA (Texas surpassed California in technology exports) Texas has a booming economy, business, industry and population. Texas is also creating various jobs in all wealth classes (poor-rich) and Texas was the least affected by the recession (Texas’s economy is officially back to pre-recession levels according to multiple sources which I am to lazy to type >>you can search them up yourself<<) So basically getting to my point, Texas which is a red state is luring people who have similar views towards politics like you, because thanks to the conservatism of Texas politics our economy continues to be prosperous and growing (and of course whenever Liberals ruin their home states by supporting minimum wage increases which increases the prices of goods and keeps the poor- poor, and supporting increases in taxes, they move to a prosperous state like Texas and will still support the democratic side which caused them to flee their own state)

    So getting to my main point, based off your ignorance towards certain topics, and the lack of knowledge you have about republicans, still proves the fact that most liberals seem to be blinded by liberal propaganda.

    Why would I want to run over "libbtards" (you stated this word, not me), everyone is entitled to their own opinions, Just because I disagree with your views does not signify that I want to murder liberals (that seems to be the point that you are making at the end of your comment)

    And thanks for giving me the tip about going to the stockyards! I love that place 🙂 I will make sure to go this weekend! (and I will not run over liberals just because they have different views on politics, I am not an ignorant person)

  6. The fact that you support backward ignorant hillbillies with political aspirations that are all firmly in the pocket of big money interests and corporations that are only interested in maintaining the top 2% wage earners and the elite status quo power brokers shows where your head is really at. In the toilet. Return to your bunker. I am sure there is enough canned food, MRE’s, bottled water and radio equipment there to last throughout the coming new world order nuclear holocaust. Don’t forget to bring along your sister so you have someone to have sex with.

  7. This is getting boring very rapidly and I am sure that whoever the administrators are in control of this forum are about ready to ban us both from posting any more back and forth personal insults on here so I am going to refrain from any further comment. Have a nice day.

    • So are you throwing in the towel just like Kathleen Sebelius did? Well sorry if I insulted you, I was not aiming for that but I just wanted to encourage you to expand the boundaries of your mind, it seems as if you are extremely misinformed of certain topics, just remember to do your own research on topics (and look at both sides, not just the side you support)

      FYI: I used to be an Liberal extremist, socialist supporter (yes I used to be a socialist), and a strong democrat supporter, but later on I found out how misinformed I was, I did my own research on both sides (I did my own research, I was curious about the other side which I really had no information on because I would just read the >opinions< that people who had the same views as me would state) I found flaws in both the democratic and republican parties, but I have to admit that republicans do better at encouraging citizens to not become dependent on the government (its like this quote: "Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime")