Letters Recently Printed in local Newspapers
TransCanada's Keystone XL/Gulf Coast Project
remains a burning issue for East Texans as evidenced by the letters posted, with permission of their writers, below.
As a native Texan, it pains me to see individuals formulate instant judgments regarding projects with potentially massive environmental ramifications based solely on political leanings and unresearched opinions.
The matter of the Keystone XL pipeline is a deeply nuanced issue encompassing matters of corporate influence superseding landowner rights, a gross inflation of projected job numbers given by TransCanada as outlined in findings by the U.S. State Department and Cornell University’s Global Labor Institute, the tar sands refining process producing three times more green house gases than that of conventional crude oil, and the fact that this fossil fuel is not intended for the American public. On the contrary, the purpose of this pipeline is to transport the raw material, bitumen, to refineries in southeast Texas where it will then subsequently be exported to the highest bidder.
Furthermore, dilbit (diluted bitumen) oil is much heavier than traditional oil, and must be diluted with chemicals in order to maintain its liquid form allowing for pipeline transport. In the case of a spill, a matter TransCanada has deemed as not “if” but “when,” these highly caustic chemicals evaporate and the oil returns to its heavy, viscous state which does not float on the top of water as conventional crude oil does. Instead, it sinks, rendering surface skimmers and vacuums used to clean up conventional spills useless. There is no question that Texas crude oil and Canadian tar sands oil are significantly different substances, despite TransCanada’s claim of “crude oil” transport to receive common carrier status with the Texas State Railroad Commission in order to institute eminent domain. To see the differences, one must only look to the 2010 failure of an Enbridge corporation pipeline that dumped more than 800,000 gallons of tar sands oil into a tributary of the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. Clean-up continues after more than three years with costs of more than $800 million in damages.
I implore the people of Texas to honestly research the ramifications of this project before dismissing it as “just another pipeline.”
I grew up in West Texas as part of an oil business family. Both of my grandfathers were pumpers in the oil fields and my father was, for over 50 years, an independent petroleum geologist. My brother is a petroleum geologist now. During the Christmas holiday, when I said something about tar sands, before I could even finish my sentence my brother interrupted, “That’s the dirtiest energy source on the planet. We don’t even want to go there.”
There are plenty of naysayers, including the Daily Sentinel, in its Jan. 29, 2013, editorial endorsement of the Keystone XL pipeline. But as a pastor and theologian, I fear we are treading on holy ground. Instead of taking our shoes off in reverence and respect (Genesis 3), we are extracting dirty and toxic fuels, spewing them onto God’s creation that we were given to care for (Genesis 2:15) and changing the entire global ecosystem.
“We’re running Genesis backwards, de-creating,” says my friend Bill McKibben, an environmental writer and Methodist Sunday School teacher who explains that the ice caps of the Arctic and Antarctic are melting faster than any scientist has foreseen. The oceans, which cover three-fourths of the earth’s surface, are more acidic, and their level is rising; they are also warmer, which means that hurricanes and cyclones are not only more frequent but more powerful. Hurricane Sandy was the largest storm ever measured, with tropical storm force winds stretching 1,040 miles out from the center. Last summer, we had record heat (July was the hottest month in American history, any month any year) marked by record wildfires and a drought so intense barges are running aground on the Mississippi.
What does all of that have to do with East Texas – other than the fact that we too are part of this Creation that is being de-created? Currently, being constructed through the heart of our own land is the TransCanada Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Tar sands bitumen is inefficient, dirty and dangerous. It is either strip mined or produced by injecting high pressure steam into the ground to melt the bitumen and get it to flow to the surface. To process it into usable fuel requires complex upgrading and refining that is also highly energy intensive and polluting.
Tar sands oil is more dangerous to transport because it is more corrosive to pipelines. When something goes wrong, as it already has 30 times on similar pipelines, it is virtually impossible to clean up the spill because the tar sands are so heavy they sink rather than floating like crude. Additionally, carcinogenic gases such as benzene are released into the air. Current construction has the pipeline roughly 1,000 feet from our Douglass Schools.
In July 2010, there was a spill on the Kalamazoo River which has cost more per barrel to clean up than any spill in U.S. history. Despite hundreds of millions of dollars and two years of clean up operations, oil remains in parts of the affected area. Tar sands oil is more polluting to produce, transport and refine than conventional oil because it contains more carbon and more toxic substances, such as heavy metals and sulfur. These pollutants are released into the environment one way or another once the resource is extracted.
Lorne Stockman, research director for Oil Change International, announced new research that shows that the emissions from tar sands oil are worse than originally believed. This is because the climate emissions from a byproduct of tar sands, petroleum coke — which is made in the refinery process and is used in coal-fired power plants — have not been previously considered.
“If Keystone is approved,” says Dr. Danny Harvey, professor at the University of Toronto, “we’re locking in several more decades of fossil fuels and higher levels of carbon dioxide and global warming.”
“Climate change is the story related to Keystone. The drought and heat wave in Texas cost Texans $5.2 billion. Hurricane Sandy cost us $70 billion,” says Dr. John Abraham, climate scientist at the University of St. Thomas. “Some people say it’s too expensive to develop clean energy. I say it’s too expensive not to.” The old story from Genesis says that in our pride we sinned against God. But now, as if that is not enough, with the tar sands pipeline and our degradation of the planet, it seems that we want to unmake it all, which is like spitting in God’s face. And I, for one, don’t want to go there.
Rev. Kyle Childress
Austin Heights Baptist Church
It is to be expected that TransCanada spokespersons James Prescott and James Miller would run loose with the facts and engage in hyperbole; after all they are “spin doctors,” it’s their job. But, it is disappointing when the Daily Sentinel continues to quote their inaccurate spin, as they have done in every article I have read concerning the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline. TransCanada, and many in the fossil fuel industry, continue to refer to the diluted bitumen being forced through their pipelines as “crude oil.” It is not crude oil. Actual crude oil is pumped from the ground as a lighter-than-water liquid and sent to refining. Tar sands bitumen is more akin to soft asphalt.
Tar Sands bitumen is mixed with highly toxic liquids and gasses forming diluted bitumen to be forced through a pipeline at high pressure destined for specially prepared refineries here in Texas. The “spin doctors” won’t tell you diluted bitumen is heavier than water, and the gases included in this mix are heavier than air. When leaked, the toxic liquids will permeate river beds, sandy soils, and faults and could permanently pollute our ground water.
The harmful gases lie close to the ground and sicken humans as it does at the Kalamazoo River spill. This is why highly corrosive diluted bitumen is especially dangerous. It poses imminent danger from extraction in Canada through our heartland, to the Gulf; especially at the Ogallala and Carrizo Wilcox aquifers, rivers and faults. Considering documented incidents of shoddy workmanship and failures of the TransCanada Keystone 1 pipeline (online 2010: 14 leaks In the first year, 35+ since Including a 400 barrel geyser), TransCanada bitumen pipelines represent unacceptable risks.
Another repeated false claim that this “oil (will) reduce dependence on foreign product” flies in the face of reality. It is a foreign product. It’s not a traded U.S. commodity. TransCanada sends their diluted bitumen direct to refining, and sells the refined product outside the U.S. That makes our homeland a cheap conduit for TransCanada’s profit machine. What do we get? Unusable property, toxic pollution and increased global warming. Mr. Prescott, I say “that would be lunacy.”
Landowners Rights Alliance
The word “jobs” was heavily deployed in print and at hearings regarding the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline by TransCanada. “Jobs” is a great “feel good” word, because who can say that “jobs” are a bad thing!
Did anyone in Nacogdoches County get the well paying jobs touted? Any East Texans?
I invite the news media to find out and report the answer, and for anyone from our area who has been hired as a result of the diluted bitumen pipeline project to let us know about their employment.
Local media coverage and the actions of law enforcement seem to focus upon how the rights of TransCanada have been violated by protests to their bulldozing of the XL right of way across the United States and recently through East Texas.
After reading coverage of the blockade events, I have felt great concern for how Texas land owners have been violated. The threat of condemnation by a foreign corporation who is rapidly converting land and forests to bare dirt, law enforcement using pepper spray on citizens unwilling to remain silent, and local newspapers refusing to correctly distinguish between highly toxic tar sands bitumen and traditional crude oil is another violation.
The youth of our country are challenging the stewardship of the land, water, air quality and economy which they are inheriting. The documented damage caused by the Embridge spill of tar sands oil in Kalamazoo is a warning of things to come. The jobs promised by TransCanada to Texas will be untrained, at-risk first responders when heated and super pressurized tar sands oil and it’s volatile solvents are accidentally released through breaches in the new XL pipeline.
As a longtime resident of Nacogdoches County, I am extremely concerned about the use of pepper spray by area law enforcement on nonviolent protesters against the Keystone XL pipeline.
Young people have come from across Texas and the nation to oppose the pipeline and support landowners that feel their land has been taken illegally. On Nov. 19, four of these individuals chose to “voice” their dissent with passive civil disobedience by attaching themselves to machinery in Cherokee County. Without threats of bodily harm to any citizen, worker or police officer, they were brutally attacked with pepper spray directly into the face and eyes by East Texas law enforcement.
The U.S. Court of Appeals 9th District has clearly ruled that in similar circumstances the use of pepper spray is unlawful and excessive force. Law-enforcement-grade pepper spray is a chemical weapon and should be reserved for self-defense against violent individuals. Whether you agree with the pipeline protestors’ stance or tactics, brutalizing passive dissenters with the use of excessive force has no place in American communities. Please voice your concerns to your county’s law enforcement officials.
Growing up in East Texas, I am used to pipelines. In East Texas, we do not necessarily like pipelines but we are familiar with them. Naturalist, hunter, child — we have all walked on them. Generally, we have been powerless to stop them, but generally we have also pretended pipelines don’t impact our daily life. Pipelines have impacted my life, however, in the form of cancer, unwanted land development, noise, water, and land pollution, and increased traffic on quiet country roads.
In addition to all of these impacts, the Keystone XL pipeline has other major differences from what we are used to. The newspaper has reported several times recently that TransCanada said that this pipeline will carry crude oil — this is not true. If completed, this pipeline will carry an ecologically damaging and corrosive product called diluted bitumen from Canada to the Gulf. If this product leaks or spills it will change the way we look at pipelines. Google ‘Kalamazoo Tar Sands Spill’ to understand this.
We don’t know how to talk about this pipeline because we think we know pipelines in East Texas. We don’t know about this kind of pipeline. The greatest mistake East Texas could make would be to blindly accept the Keystone XL pipeline because we think it is the same as other pipelines we have experienced in the past. It’s not. I have grown up with pipelines and know enough to know we don’t want this pipeline and the products it will carry in East Texas.
The use of eminent domain is illegal without there being some “public use.” The Keystone XL Pipeline is illegal because the law of eminent domain clearly states that there must be some benefit to the public.
Jobs: There was talk of 100,000 jobs, and then 20,000, but independent analysis put the number at 5,000. Now they say that one of their employees bought a truck in East Texas ... it turns out there are almost no local jobs and even if there were, they won’t last very long.
Energy Independence: There is a world market and a world price for oil. All the oil is for sale to the highest bidder. Alaska oil goes to Japan. There will be no benefit to the public if this pipeline is built. The price of gasoline will actually increase by four to five billion dollars a year according to testimony given by representatives of Keystone XL when they were trying to raise money from the oil companies who stand to benefit from this pipeline.
Right now, this oil is being refined in the Midwest of this country, so if this pipeline is built, people in this country will be paying $4 to $5 billion a year more for gasoline. Raising the price of gasoline is clearly a detriment and won’t benefit the public. Wouldn’t it be easier to ship it to the East or West coast of Canada? It would, but the Canadians don’t want this dangerous pipeline in their country.
Not only are the benefits almost non-existent, but there are very real detriments. This pipeline puts at risk the water supply of 60 Texas counties that depend on the Carrizo/Wilcox Aquifer for their supply of water. Unlike crude oil, bitumen cannot be cleaned up because it sinks in water and will pollute our aquifer when the pipeline leaks.
Who really benefits? China, Saudi Arabia and Exxon are some of the major investors in tar sands oil. The pipe comes from India.
I am an average, tax-paying, law abiding, citizen and I support the XL pipeline protesters. They are standing up for you and me. They are standing to stop a multinational corporation from taking Texas land.
Unlike most common carrier easements, this pipeline is not for the public good. Texan’s are being asked to accept all of the damage and risk from a hot bitumen (not crude oil) pipeline, without receiving any public benefit. If you believe that real jobs and cheaper gas are coming with this pipeline I have a bridge I’d like to sell you. But the most important reason I support the protesters is because they are standing against climate change. It’s happening folks, whether you believe in it or not. Our “leaders” are too frightened to discuss it, while record heat, droughts, tornados and hurricanes wreak havoc and destroy lives and property.
Ask the insurance companies if they support action to slow climate change. I have met these protesters and they are courageous, bright, well-informed and committed. Some have put promising careers on hold to risk everything to stand up for what is right. Don’t let them stand alone.