Don’t Worry: Keystone XL Pipeline Would Be Safe From The Climate Impacts It Would Cause

by Brad Johnson

According to John Kerry’s State Department, the controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline will be safe from the climate impacts to which it will contribute.

The department’s contractor-written Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement estimates, and then dismisses, the pipeline’s massive carbon footprint. But the statement also determines that the global warming the pipeline’s dirty crude will cause will not affect the pipeline itself because it “will be buried deep enough”:

During the operations period, climate change projections suggest the following changes:

  • Warmer winter temperatures;
  • A shorter cool season;
  • A longer duration of frost-free periods;
  • More freeze-thaw cycles per year (which could lead to an increased number of episodes of soil contraction and expansion);
  • Warmer summer temperatures;
  • Increased number of hot days and consecutive hot days; and
  • Longer summers (which could lead to impacts associated with heat stress and wildfire risks).

The pipeline would be buried deep enough to avoid surface impacts of climate changes (freeze-thaw cycles, fires, and temperature extremes).

As Secretary of State John Kerry said six years ago, “we’re on an urgent clock” to confront fossil-fueled climate change. He compared it to the threat of nuclear weaponry as a “man-made” and “uncontrolled” weapon with “the ability to change life as we know it on this Earth.” Kerry’s recognition of the scientific necessity to keep global concentrations of carbon dioxide below 450 ppm should preclude the possibility of building a pipeline designed to pump 7 gigatons of carbon dioxide worth of tar sands crude over decades. In one of his first speeches as Secretary of State, Kerry said that the United States is in “this moment of urgency to lead on the climate concerns that we share with our global neighbors.”

Why then, does the State Department’s draft impact statement ignore Kerry’s clear understanding of the threat posed by the Keystone XL pipeline? Perhaps it’s because the statement is literally bought and paid for by Keystone XL’s maker, the foreign tar sands company TransCanada.

The impact statement was written by a TransCanada contractor, not by State Department officials. The “sustainability consultancy” Environmental Resources Management was paid an undisclosed amount under contract to TransCanada to write the statement, which is now an official government document.

The impact statement did not take into account the predicted political instability that is already starting to occur because of global warming, however. As Kerry said in 2009, “catastrophic climate change represents a threat to human security, global stability, and — yes — even to American national security.” As economist Sir Nicholas Stern said, “the cost of inaction” on climate change is a “serious risk of global war.”

One might expect that threats to global stability might have an impact on the continued operation of the Keystone XL pipeline, no matter how deep it is buried.

Brad Johnson is the campaign manager of Forecast the Facts.

6 Responses to Don’t Worry: Keystone XL Pipeline Would Be Safe From The Climate Impacts It Would Cause

  1. Gingerbaker says:

    They’d better bury it deep.

    Otherwise there is likely to be some environmental activism which doesn’t involve peaceful demonstrations, and it’s going to be targeted at that pipeline.

  2. Brian R Smith says:

    ” the statement is literally bought and paid for by Keystone XL’s maker, the foreign tar sands company TransCanada.” Exploding head doesn’t quite say it.

    Brad,how is it that this is allowed to begin with? State just abdicates authority to TransCanada? Under what rule? What’s to go after here?

  3. Brian R Smith says:

    Here is State’s

    ..which says

    All prospective contractors (Offeror) must submit as part of their proposals a statement of Offeror’s Organizational Conflicts of Interest Disclosure.
    An Organizational Conflict of Interest (OCI) exists when the nature of the work to be performed may, without some restriction on future activities:

    a) result in an unfair competitive advantage to a contractor; or b) impair the contractor’s objectivity in performing the contract work.

    OCIs may exist where the contractor and/or its employees have a past, present, or ongoing financial interest in a project to be covered by the third-party contract. For example, an OCI may exist if the contractor:

    a) has been involved with the applicant on the project or any of the proposed project’s connected actions before it is proposed to the Department, or while it is pending before the Department;

    b) has an ongoing relationship with the applicant; or any of the applicant’s subsidiaries and/or parent companies;

    c) would be called on to review its own prior work; or

    d) has a financial or other interest in the outcome of the Department’s decision.

  4. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Brian, the State Department, Congress and the President have already outsourced Middle Eastern policy to AIPAC and similar pro-Israel groups, who have even been known to craft legislation before it is rubber-stamped by Congress, so the precedent has already been set. It rather blatantly lets the environmental movement know what Obama thinks of them, though, the old second-term ‘kicking sand in the loser’s face’ scenario, designed to get the ‘progressives’ to stay at home in 2014. Always remember-in the world as it has been made, by our betters, it is impossible to ever be too cynical. Reality always trumps one’s worst imaginings.

  5. Brian R Smith says:

    ERM’s statements & affidavits in the Draft EIS re conflict of interest:

  6. Brian R Smith says:

    You’re right of course, though if there is an inherent or even perceived legal conflict of interest in this case between TransCanada’s store-bought candy & State’s obligation to watch what it eats on our behalf…now would be a good time to make it shine.