The Keystone XL debate in 10 letters to John Kerry

By John Parnell

This week the State Department started publishing the one million public comments it received on the Keystone XL pipeline’s environmental impact assessment.

A sample of just 10 demonstrates the strength of feeling on both sides of the debate.

The project would transport unrefined bitumen from Canada’s tar sands to refineries in the US. As it crosses into US territory, the State Department must make a recommendation to President Obama.

It released a draft environmental impact assessment earlier this year and opened it up to public scrutiny.

Residents queue for entry to a Keystone XL hearing in Nebraska (Copyright: Bold Nebraska)

Calls to reject the plan range from worries over indigenous rights to the effect on climate change and the routing over a vital aquifer (partially mitigated courtesy of a diversion).

It’s worth noting that even Canadian MPs that are sceptical of the tar sands development have said that even without Keystone XL, they’ll find a way to get the oil to market.

Those backing the bid cite the creation of thousands of jobs and added certainty for mainly existing roles at refineries in Texas, the pipelines end destination. Energy security also features high on the list too, with the addition of the pipeline’s 830,000 barrels a day thought to reduce dependence on more volatile sources.

Obama himself has cast doubt on the jobs figures, which have been contradicted constantly during the debate.

The tar sands oil would ultimately enter the global oil market and would not be sold to the US just because it was refined there.

Both sides’ arguments have their flaws in a debate that a million people have actively contributed to. The onus is on the State Department and President Obama to make the right decision.

10 public comments that crystallise the Keystone XL debate

Claude BeaversSome say the pipeline will create thousands of job. Yes, but most are temporary and too many may be as morticians and gravediggers. I urge the Department of State to make its decision based on the scientific facts, not politics. I urge the rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline project.

Douglas GrandtAs a former petroleum engineer with Humble Oil & Refining Co., I believe the tarsands bitumen has no redeeming value to global markets as the CO2 emissions from the burning of the synthetic so-called “oil” will hasten the time when human suffering and social disruption become untenable, and increase the likelihood of our and other species’ slide into the unrelenting throes of extinction.

Every person of conscience who is informed on the science should be working to reduce CO2 emissions as quickly as possible, rather than expanding the carbon-based fuel infrastructure.

Brett Greenfield on behalf of Bill McCoy, President of the Port Arthur Port AuthorityIn closing, the Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce believes that construction of the Keystone XL pipeline is in the best interest of all Americans. It would be beneficial to the Port Arthur Area. Our population is approximately 45 percent African American and 38 percent Hispanic. Many of those families are classified as low income. Our unemployment rate is approximately 13 – 14 percent. The influx of Canadian oil to our area would create much needed job opportunities for these citizens.

Katherine SeitzIs the State Department really going to ignore Tribal Rights again by not properly engaging affected Native American Tribes? Nothing in the Draft SEIS gives indication that the Tribes have been properly consulted.

Jeffrey GritznerThe deposits of tar sands cover 55,000 square miles, roughly an area the size of New York State, and are believed to contain 169.9 billion barrels of recoverable oil. Their development constitutes the largest industrial project in history—and among the most destructive. Some two tons of sand are required to produce one barrel of oil. The production of each barrel generates two to four times more greenhouse gasses than does production of a barrel of conventional oil. Should combustion of the final products be included, tar-sands extraction, upgrading, and use emits ten to forty-five per cent more greenhouse gasses than conventional crude.

Senator Deb Fischer (Nebraska) and Senator Heidi Heitkamp (North Dakota)We write to urge the expeditious approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, a project which has the clear capacity to grow our economy and energy security without having a significant impact on the environment. The two issues that had been holding up approval, a new route through Nebraska and an environmental impact study, have now been resolved in a manner that leaves little doubt that it is time to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.

Ed and Harriet Griffith, New Progressive AllianceSafety considerations have not been addressed at all, especially the demonstrated higher risk of pipeline failure due to external corrosion in high temperature pipelines like Keystone XL. The 2010 spill of 1.2 million gallons of oil-sands into the Kalamazoo River demonstrates the expense ($800 million) and unprecedented difficulty in cleaning up this kind of oil.

Form letter from Energy CitizensDear Secretary Kerry, please approve the Keystone XL pipeline as quickly as possible. Every day we continue to delay this important piece of U.S. energy infrastructure inhibits our economic growth and weakens American security.

As a military veteran and a well‐known supporter of military personnel, veterans and their families, you understand the importance of protecting our national security. Approving the Keystone XL pipeline would directly enhance America’s security, diminishing our dependence on unfriendly foreign oil states and strengthening our relationship with our next‐door neighbor and longtime ally, Canada.

Form letter from Natural Resources Defence CouncilIn your State of the Union address you vowed to tackle catastrophic climate change. So I am deeply disappointed and distressed that your State Department has produced an environmental review of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline that ignores the climate impacts of extracting the dirtiest fuel on the planet. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy and other deadly weather events, our government should not be whitewashing the very real and disastrous effects of climate‐wrecking projects like the Keystone XL.

Institute for Energy ResearchThere is no doubt that the Keystone XL pipeline is in the national interest. Please approve it as quickly as possible.

The Keystone XL pipeline would increase America’s energy security and strengthen our relationship with Canada. The only thing stopping this common sense project is the federal government. The pipeline would bring in an additional 830,000 barrels of North American oil per day, reducing our need to import oil from unstable regimes overseas.

Note: The State Department publishes one copy of each standard letter. Lists of senders will be made available. 100,000 new comments will be published each week.


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