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Keystone Pipeline - "Conflicts of Interest Make This a Sham"

The fact that the Canadian government and the oil industry were reportedly briefed on today’s news before Congress was given the courtesy of a heads-up speaks volumes. It encourages the already widely held impression that the fix was in from the beginning. If the administration expects to avoid the lasting stink of having ignored every red flag in the book, it needs to explain itself.

Global Solutions


Grijalva Statement on Release of Keystone Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement:

Tucson, Ariz.

[Rep. Raul M. Grijalva, who has led the fight for greater transparency on conflicts of interest in the Keystone XL approval process, released the following comment in response to the newly announced State Department Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) essentially granting final approval to the pipeline. You can read more about Grijalva’s ongoing efforts, especially on corporate conflicts of interest disclosure, here]

This process has featured multiple documented conflicts of interest, corporate failure to disclose relevant business ties, and a State Department more interested in greasing the skids than doing due diligence. We thought we’d seen the last of this in the George W. Bush era, when profits came before science and wealthy corporate interests called all the shots.

When the State Department was looking for a company to write the SEIS, TransCanada recommended its own environmental contractor without disclosing its existing relationship to the administration or anyone else. That’s already well established. The question was what the State Department would do about it. The answer, apparently, is to release the SEIS as though nothing had happened. Its own Inspector General is weeks away from publishing a report on the issue. The State Department, if only to maintain its own credibility, should have waited at least that long.

This document will be seen by the entire environmental community – in which I certainly include myself – as a sham. The fact that the Canadian government and the oil industry were reportedly briefed on today’s news before Congress was given the courtesy of a heads-up speaks volumes. It encourages the already widely held impression that the fix was in from the beginning. If the administration expects to avoid the lasting stink of having ignored every red flag in the book, it needs to explain itself.

The State Department is asking us to believe this pipeline is in the national interest. How can a pipeline that ships Canadian tar sands to the Gulf of Mexico for export, that does nothing to increase our energy independence, and that will deal irreparable damage both to our landscapes and our air quality possibly meet that definition? Besides the corporations involved, this project isn’t in anyone’s interest. It’s a bad deal pumped up by well-connected lobbyists, and at the end of the day I believe many people involved in this decision know it.

The only way to approve Keystone XL is to ignore the multiple lies TransCanada told the State Department in its application. I’m sorry to see the State Department is comfortable with that. There’s a difference between having enough political cover to make something happen and being able to look the American people in the eye to justify a decision. This project shouldn’t have any cover at all, and it certainly doesn’t pass the look-you-in-the-eye test.

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The public now has 90 days to comment on the environmental damage the project itself and tar sands generally will do to the environment. The scientific verdict is already in. The only way for it to matter now is for everyone to make his or her voice heard as loudly as possible. I intend to do that, and I invite the American people to join me.”


Nurses Criticize State Dept Keystone XL Pipeline Report

    Nurses Warn of Escalating Effects of Climate Change on Public Health

National Nurses United
January 31, 2014

The nation’s largest U.S. organization of nurses today criticized the new State Department report on the Keystone XL Pipeline, presumably intended to encourage a green light on construction of the controversial project, for paying inadequate attention to the serious consequences on public health.

“There is broad concern about the harmful health effects linked to both the extraction and transport of tar sands, as well as how the Pipeline will accelerate the steadily worsening erosion of health we see every day as a result of climate change,” said Jean Ross, RN, co-president of National Nurses United.

“Nurses will continue to oppose construction of this project, and call on President Obama to stand with our patients and our communities, not the big oil interests, to reject KXL,” Ross said.

NNU cited numerous reports about the effects of Keystone and tar sands production.

First, extraction of tar sands oil is far more difficult than conventional oil drilling. The massive amount of water needed to separate the extracted product, bitumen, from sand, oil and silt, is contaminated with toxic substances that cannot be returned to any water source that may end up in human drinking water. Nearly all is dumped in large pools that are already infecting neighboring clean water supplies.  Communities downstream from the ponds have seen spikes in rates of cancers, renal failure, lupus, and hyperthyroidism.  In one small community of just 1,200 residents, 100 have already died from cancer.

Second, leaks from the transmission of the heavy, corrosive tar sands, over U.S. water aquifers, and rivers pose a major danger. In 2010, a tar sands oil pipeline ruptured near Marshall, Mi.  The diluted bitumen traveled 40 miles down the Kalamazoo River to Morrow Lake. More than a month later, state officials found that half of the residents in communities along the river reported respiratory ailments and other symptoms associated with the spill.  In 2011, TransCanada pipeline spills and ruptures occurred in North Dakota and Montana. On March 29, 2013, an Exxon Mobil pipeline with tar sands oil ruptured near Mayflower, Ark. For months after, residents cited persistent health problems, and independent water and air tests have shown elevated levels of contaminants.

Third, refining tar sands oil, notes Friends of the Earth, is dirtier than refining conventional oil and results in higher emissions of toxic sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide. Pollutants from tar sands refineries are directly linked to heart and lung disease, asthma, cancer and other serious health risks, as well as emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide which contribute to acid rain. More than 40 percent of Americans live in areas adversely affected by air pollution with levels of particle pollution that can cause higher incidents of asthma, heart attacks, and premature death.

Many climatologists and environmental activists have said, in contrast with the State Department report, that Keystone XL would aggravate climate change. Prominent environmentalist  Bill McKibben says burning all the oil in those tar sands would nearly double the atmosphere’s concentration of carbon dioxide. NASA scientist James Hansen, a pioneer in climate research, has called Keystone “the biggest carbon bomb on the planet.”

Carbon emissions are a major factor in intensifying climate change. Higher air temperatures can increase bacteria-related food poisoning, such as salmonella, and animal-borne diseases such as West Nile virus. Ground level ozone contaminants can damage lung tissue, reduce lung function, and increase respiratory ailments.

Finally, weather disasters linked to climate change are already severely compromising the health and living standards of millions. NNU has sent five teams of RN volunteers to provide disaster relief in the Philippines following super typhoon Haiyan, called the most destructive and powerful tropical cyclone ever to hit landfall. Sub-surface ocean waters recorded at up to 9 degrees Fahrenheit above average reportedly fueled the strength and size of the storm.

What RNRN volunteers saw were hundreds of patients experiencing immediate injuries and other health problems as a result of the storm, as well as the long term erosion of their health status due to the loss of their homes and livelihood. Similar stories can be told about many other disasters linked to climate change, including Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy in the U.S. where NNU also sent RN volunteers.

“Nurses care for patients every day who struggle with health crises aggravated by environmental pollution in its many forms,” said NNU Co-President Deborah Burger, RN. “As a society we need to reduce the effects of environmental factors, including climate change, that are making people sick, and endangering the future for our children. That’s why we oppose the Keystone XL pipeline.”


Earth's Future in the Friday News Dump

Roots Action

February 1, 2014

It's classic. Wait till late on a Friday to announce a reprehensible decision in hopes of minimizing the uproar in response. But the extreme climate crisis doesn't take weekends off. And neither do we.

A State Department report has just declared that the environmental impact of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would be acceptable. This clears a path for Secretary of State John Kerry to give his approval to the pipeline.

Click here to tell Kerry and President Obama we will not stand for this project moving forward!

Scientists agree with the assessment of James Hansen that exploitation of the tar sands would be a catastrophe for the climate. This is a planetary emergency -- and right now this is a political emergency.

Take action now!

"Significant impacts to most resources are not expected along the proposed Project route assuming the following," reads the State Department report, before listing a series of improbable assumptions.

No wonder they waited for Friday afternoon!

Please forward this email widely right now to anyone who cares about the future of the earth!

-- The team

P.S. RootsAction is an independent online force endorsed by Jim Hightower, Barbara Ehrenreich, Cornel West, Daniel Ellsberg, Glenn Greenwald, Naomi Klein, Bill Fletcher Jr., Laura Flanders, former U.S. Senator James Abourezk, Coleen Rowley, Frances Fox Piven, and many others.

P.P.S. This work is only possible with your financial support. Please donate.

U.S. State Department: Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement