Capstone Project

A No-Go for the approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline

The final phase of the Keystone XL pipeline which would move crude oil from Hardisty, Alberta to Steele City, Neb. has been voted down by the Senate Democrats.

President Barack Obama appeared on “The Colbert Report” shortly after where he spoke with Colbert about why the project has been stopped. “Keystone is going through an evaluation process,” Obama said. “What I’ve said is if we look at this objectively, we’ve got to make sure that it’s not adding to the problem of carbon and climate change.”

Obama then restated his argument about the Keystone XL pipeline only creating temporary jobs and in fact will not lower the prices of gas and contribute to global temperatures. It would be a beneficial build for Canada and not for the United States.

“These young people are going to have to live in a world where we already know temperatures are going up, and Keystone is a potential contributor of that,” Obama stated. “We have to examine that, and we have to weigh that against the amount of jobs it’s actually going to create.”

Obama jokingly spoke with Colbert about the Canadian oil. “Essentially there’s Canadian oil passing through the United States to be sold on the world market. It’s not going to push down gas prices here in the United States, it’s good for Canada, it could create a couple thousand jobs in the initial construction of the pipeline. But we’ve got to measure that whether or not it is going to contribute to an overall warming of the planet – that could be disastrous.”

The Keystone XL project is unique because it crosses the U.S., Canadian border therefore it needs a presidential permit in order to move along with the building of phase IV of the pipeline.

President Obama knows that with whatever way he chooses to go with the pipeline, there are going to be those that are in favor and those that oppose so he has been stalling on a decision for years on whether the pipeline should be built or not.

Congress tried to push things along back in late 2011, early 2012 to give President Obama 60 days to sign off on the presidential permit to get things moving along, he refused to meet the deadline and would not be rushed.

The political challenge for the president is that the Democrats are split on the building of the pipeline with the construction unions for the project while the environmental activists groups against it.

Waiting on the outcome of the Nebraska’s Supreme Court case that could ultimately affect the route of the pipeline.

The original proposed route was through the environmentally sensitive Sand Hills region but the TransCanada pipeline company changed the route which was approved by Gov. Dave Heineman R-Neb.

Those against the pipeline argued that the governor does not have the authority to approve the route, under Nebraska law only the state Public Service Commission can approve the route.

Since it is an international pipeline the State Department had to do an environmental review. The State Departments basic environmental review facts concluded the pipeline would have “little impact” on the price of gas at the pump for the consumers and blocking the pipeline would reduce income for tar sands developers.

Nebraska farmer Randy Thompson, who is near where the new proposed pipeline would be built is more concerned for leaks. “This pipeline would be a few hundred feet from one of my irrigation wells and if it were to contaminate that well it would virtually take out 80 acres of crops for us.”

Thompson is not the only one that is worried about leaks from the pipeline that  would be basically in his backyard, but according to TransCanada, the company that has built the previous Keystone pipes and would build the XL pipeline, it is not as big of a concern as people think.

“If oil were to reach groundwater, movement of oil and any resulting contaminants that enter groundwater would be slow and limited in scope, likely to hundreds of feet at most, even in sandy soils and even in the vast Ogallala and High Plains aquifers.”

TransCanada has done a few things to prevent and detect leaks before it even happens.

-Use steel that has special characteristics that prevent punctures, making it tougher than regular steel.

-All of the welds that join the pipe are inspected.

-Use an epoxy pipe coating with a cathodic protection that keeps the pipe from corroding.

-Periodically inspecting the pipe inside and out and the instruments that run through the pipe.

“In addition to working to minimize the potential for release, Keystone also incorporates the most capable leak detection systems and practices. A data system continuously monitors the pipeline system parameters, including pressures and flow rates, sending information to a control center that is staffed 24 hours per day.”

Terry Anderson who lives in Columbus, Neb. and is a Safety Specialist for TransCanada explains that the pipeline is safe. “I see my commitment to Nebraska is to help people understand how safe the pipeline will be,” Anderson said. “Not only during construction but for the years to come through the taxes it helps to provide for Nebraska.”

Compared to traditional oil drilling in  the United States, producing crude from oil sands is estimated to emit 17 percent more greenhouse gases. The reason is that it must be heated in order to separate the crude from the sand.

In the environmental review released by the State Department they concluded earlier in the year that the Keystone XL will likely not have a significant effect on the greenhouse gas emissions. This is due to the fact that the oil will still be produced even if the pipeline is not built.

Objections to this review from the environmental group state they want the oil that is left in the ground and not the sands.

Professor Eric Compas, in the department of geography and geology at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater explained his stance on the pipeline and its affect on the green house gases. “Without the pipeline, the Alberta Tar Sands are more expensive to extract and therefore extracted more slowly. less CO2 overall,” Compas explained.

“I think the pipeline is really a red herring; we need a national and global policy to reduce CO2 emissions. A revenue-neutral carbon tax is my preferred solution; then, the pipeline would be moot – wouldn’t be built.”

According to an article by Forbes, during the presidential election the candidates claimed that the energy sector would create jobs anywhere from 600,000 to 3.5 million jobs.

More realistically the State Department estimated the construction phase would create about 42,000 jobs and generate around $2 billion. After the estimated completion of two years the pipeline would create around 50 new permanent jobs.

According to The Daily Caller, Republicans will push the Keystone’s approval again in the upcoming year when they have control of the chambers of Congress. The GOP would like to put Obama in a position by making him veto a Keystone bill.

“Let’s be clear about this. A Keystone pipeline veto would send the signal that this president has no interest in listening to the American people,” said House Speaker John Boehner R- Ohio.

“Vetoing an overwhelmingly popular bill would be a clear indication that he doesn’t care about the American people’s priorities. It would be equivalent of calling the American people stupid.”

According to “America depends on a network of more than 185,000 miles of liquid petroleum pipelines, nearly 320,000 miles of gas transmission pipelines, and more than 2 million miles of gas distribution pipelines to safely and efficiently move energy and raw materials to fuel our nation’s economic engine.”

The Keystone XL pipeline being slightly less than 1,200 miles has recently been one of the most well known pipelines whether for its environmentalist view or political view. This is due to the people that have decided to make it significant, the environmentalist chose the Keystone XL pipeline as the one they are going to stop.

The Keystone pipeline has been transporting oil sands for three years now from Canada to the U.S. refineries. The Keystone XL pipeline or phase 4 is planned to disturb less land than already built pipeline and be able to send more oil as well.

The Keystone XL pipeline would have the capacity to deliver 830,000 barrels of oil a day compared to 590,000 barrels from phase 1, while at the same time having a U.S. footprint of more than 200 miles shorter.

Trade deficit has been at a four-year low for the U.S. primarily due to the declining oil imports, the Keystone XL pipeline could actually lower that trade deficit. The approval of the Keystone XL pipeline would improve that deficit allowing the U.S. to export more petroleum that could build more jobs at refineries.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the number of train cars carrying Canadian oil is up 20 percent, and U.S. refineries are expanding their ability to take delivery by rail. Rival pipelines are expanding their existing capacity because they don’t require new approvals.

Originally the Keystone pipeline project was a partnership between TransCanada and ConocoPhillips. However TransCanada received regulatory approval in Aug. 12, 2009 to purchase the interest of ConocoPhillips.

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline, phase IV would start at the same spot as the already existing phase I Keystone pipeline. Then run 327 miles through Canada and entire the United States in Morgan, Mo. At this point American-produced oil would be added to the pipeline traveling through South Dakota and Nebraska. It would connect to the original Keystone pipeline where phase II begins in Steele City, Neb.

The Keystone XL pipeline was proposed in 2008, the acronym XL standing for “eXport Limited”. The proposed pipeline application was filed in September 2008. One year later the National Energy Board of Canada started hearings about the pipeline.

The National Energy Board of Canada approved the project on March 11, 2010. On Feb. 19, 2010 the  South Dakota Public Utilities Commission granted a permit.

The Environmental Protection Agency denied the environmental impact draft study in July, 2010 because it was inadequate and needed to be revised due to the fact they needed response plans in the event of an oil spill, safety issues and the concern of greenhouse gases.

The final environmental impact report was later released over a year later on Aug. 26, 2011 stating that there was “no significant impacts” to most of the resources as long as the environmental protection measures are followed.

Later in November the Department of State decided that they needed “to seek additional information regarding potential alternative routes around the Sand Hills in Nebraska in the determination regarding whether issuing a permit for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline is in the national interest,” so they postponed their final decision.

TransCanada responded by having 14 different routes that were being studied with 1 out of 8 routes avoiding the Sand Hills and 6 that would shorten the route across the Sand Hills and aquifer.

Nov. 30, 2011, Republican senators introduced legislation to force the Obama administration to make a decision on the Keystone XL project within 60 days. Congress passed the bill later in December. Jan. 18, 2012 President Obama refused and rejected the application, Obama stated that it “prevented a full assessment of the pipeline’s impact.”

TransCanada submitted an environmental report in September of 2012 about the new route in Nebraska which they said, “based on extensive feedback from Nebraskans, and reflects our shared desire to minimize the disturbance of land and sensitive resources in the state.”

Later in 2013 responding to the Department of State’s report recommending to neither accept nor reject the pipeline. Realizing President Obama acknowledges changes in the climate as one of the most challenging issues, an editor from The New York Times recommended he should reject the project stating that, “even by the State Department’s most cautious calculations – can only add to the problem.”

The Republicans in the House of Representatives defended the Northern Route Approval Act on May 22, 2013, on the idea that the pipeline would create jobs and energy independence. This would allow for congressional approval of the pipeline.

If it were enacted the Northern Route Approval Act would have waived the requirement for the need of a presidential permit and bypass the debate in the U.S. Senate and any of the rejections of the pipeline and the Keystone XL pipeline would be built.