by Tony Iallonardo, via National Wildlife Federation
Polluters seem to have drawn the wrong lesson from the Keystone XL controversy. Rather than temper the headlong rush to exploit tar sands, they’re getting sneakier.
The tactics: Gut environmental and public review while breaking up their grandiose proposals into smaller pieces to avoid detection. If they succeed, Americans will be stuck with a massive infrastructure of spill-prone pipelines delivering the dirtiest oil ever around the globe.
Deny Deny Deny
Big Oil has long employed deceptive tactics, but reeling from some recent setbacks, we are watching their new game plan come to light. With more than a million gallons of spilled tar sands crude still fouling Michigan’s Kalamazoo River since a spill nearly two years ago, the company behind that pipeline, Enbridge Energy Partners is now denying a plan to ship tar sands oil through New England.
Their departing CEO, Patrick Daniel, showed no remorse and gave no apologies for one of the biggest fossil fuel disasters in North America in history. Instead he sounded frustrated last week, saying he wishes the tar sands pipeline business hadn’t become so controversial. Good riddance Mr. Daniel.
Last spring, his company announced a plan to reverse the direction of a pipeline called line 9, so that it could carry crude east rather than west. No big deal, right? What Enbridge didn’t do was show all it’s cards. The real plan is to send dirty tar sands oil across several Great Lakes and New England states to Portland, Maine, for transfer by ship to refineries or for export. The project, called Trailbreaker, was floated two years ago, and then abandoned when the recession set in.
When local groups in New England announced opposition a few weeks back to piping tar sands near precious rivers in the area, Enbridge reached up its sleeve for the denial card. A spokesman for Enbridge told the Associated Press, “We have been absolutely clear on the fact that the company is not pursuing the Trailbreaker Project.”
That’s not credible. As NWFs Curtis Fisher retorted in the AP article, Enbridge denied it was looking at reversing line 9, until they went ahead and announced they wanted to reverse line 9. In fact, the company is salivating at the prospect of moving (BY THEIR 2008 ESTIMATE) 150,000 barrels of tar sludge a day to Portland, Maine.
“We’re pretty excited about [Trailbreaker],” an oil executive said in a 2008 presentation,”because it provides capacity on an as-needed basis, and it involves existing assets so it can be completed at low cost and on a quick turnaround.”
So what’s the truth? Enbridge appears to be playing a dangerous game of denial, putting the pieces in place for a tar sands route to New England, while denying the once and future Trailbreaker (or something by a different name) is happening. Elephant in the room, what elephant?
Divide and Conquer
Meanwhile, another pipeline giant, TransCanada, has split the 2,000 mile Keystone XL into two, in an attempt to move the project piecemeal and shrink the scope of the State Department’s environmental review. Wildlife Promise recently referred to this as “divide and conquer.”
[A]after Keystone XL was rejected the first time, TransCanada decided to split off the “Gulf Coast segment” of the pipeline, which stretches through Oklahoma and Texas, as a stand-alone project. Because this route doesn’t cross the US border, it avoided the need for the Presidential Permit and the review it entails.
That particular tactic paid off for TransCanada last month, as the Army Corps of engineers gave a green light to construction of XL in Oklahoma and Texas. The oil execs at TransCanada probably had some high-fives last month as well when the State Department announced its new environmental review will ignore the southern segment of Keystone XL.
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