FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Obama Isn’t Really Opposing Keystone XL

by STEVE HORN

Believe it or not, the precise route of TransCanada’s Keystone XL tar sands pipeline remains shrouded in mystery.

Of course, both TransCanada and the U.S. State Department have revealed basic Keystone XL route maps. And those who follow the issue closely know the pipeline would carry Alberta’s tar sands diluted bitumen or “dilbit” southward to Port Arthur, TX refineries and then be exported to the global market.

But the real path is still a secret: the actual route of KXL is still cloaked in secrecy. Case in point: the travails of Thomas Bachand, Founder and Director of theKeystone Mapping Project.

“I started out wanting to scout the route for a potential photography project. So I went looking for a map, and discovered there wasn’t one,” Bachand explained in a Nov. 2012 interview with National Public Radio. “I went over to the State Department website, and found some great information, but then I discovered there wasn’t any route information.”

His experience with TransCanada was even worse.

“TransCanada [also gave me] the runaround. Their excuse was that [releasing the information] was a national security risk, which is just a joke.”

Due to lack of transparency on the part of President Barack Obama’s State Department and TransCanada, what was once merely an ambitous photo-journalism project has morphed into a full-fledged muckraking effort – and a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request battle royale – that’s now lasted about a year and a half for Bachand. The State Department still has yet to give him the goods.

“I was initially told that 8-12 months was a typical turn around time for a FOIA,” Bachand explained to DeSmogBlog in an interview. “Keep in mind that many FOIA requests to the State Dept. require extensive searches through years of diplomatic cables. My request deals with a single project handled by a single department.”

Why the long delay on such a seemingly straight-forward request?

“I have been told that the main obstacle to my FOIA request with the Dept. of State for the…Keystone XL is that the information is ‘politically sensitive,’” Bachand explained of the situation in a June 26, 2012 blog post.

Missing the Forest for the Trees? 

Bachand believes even the most ardent advocates fending off KXL are missing the forest for the trees on the State Dept. KXL Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS).

The SEIS was penned by Environmental Resources Management (ERM Group), a dues-paying member of the American Petroleum Institute (API) which said KXL will have negligible climate change impacts, along with two other industry-tied contractors. API has spent $22 million lobbying on behalf of its members on KXL and tar sands since its initial June 2008 proposal, on top of the cash it has spent on its relentless public relations and advertising efforts.

“What’s been lost in the debate over the Keystone is that, as written, the EIS makes it impossible to determine the project’s environmental impacts,” Bachand told DeSmogBlog in an interview. “As all key features and landmarks are referenced to the nearest pipeline milepost marker, without milepost marker longitude and latitude data, one cannot make sense of the report.”

As of now, U.S. citizens aren’t even privy to information as basic as what water bodies the pipeline crosses, Bachand says. As seen in Mayflower, AR – when tens of thousands of gallons of tar sands crude from ExxonMobil’s Pegasus Pipeline spilled into Lake Conway from a pipeline few even knew existed until the latest “dilbit disaster” – knowledge is power and lack of it vice versa. Not knowing the exact route of the pipeline leaves impacted communities unable to anticipate threats to waterways where their local knowledge would be invaluable.

“Waterbody crossings are another key feature that is largely missing,” Bachand explained to DeSmog. “If the pipeline crossed a mile upstream from one’s property, or neighborhood, or community park, or aquifer, most people would want to know about it. Keep in mind that I am only looking at GIS data. One has to wonder what else is missing from the EIS.”

Bachand also believes that President Obama’s statement about deciding the fate of KXL exclusively on its climate change impact – at the expense of numerous significant ecological impacts – is foolhardy.

“Obama said that the KXL would only be approved if it did not contribute to climate change in his Climate Action Plan speech,” Bachand said. “Yet, one cannot determine global impacts without first giving due diligence to the immediate environmental impacts. Also, by focusing strictly on the impact of tar sands on the climate, pipeline opponents largely disassociate the debate from the pipeline’s ecological impacts.”

Next Steps for Bachand on Keystone Mapping Project 

Although FOIA battles over basic KXL details were never the initial intention of Bachand’s project, he is now committed to work on the project for months, if not years to come.

“The project remains a work in progress. Of course I would like to see the mapping component completed, but as it is, it communicates the ‘incompleteness’ of both the Keystone concept and our policies on land and energy use,” he said in discussing his next steps. “If I can secure funding I would like to travel the pipeline route with the goal of producing a book and gallery exhibit.”

Bachand sees KXL as a climate change symbol – and as he’s learned, a symbol of broken democracy – with much significance beyond the immediate pipeline itself.

“KXL has become emblematic of our inability to reconcile world demand for fossil fuels and the environmental imperatives imposed upon modern civilization,” he said. “I’m glad TransCanada chose to name it the Keystone. It’s a perfect metaphor in so many ways.”

Steve Horn is a Madison, WI-based freelance investigative journalist and Research Fellow at DeSmogBlog, where this piece originally appeared.

Steve Horn is a Madison, WI-based freelance investigative journalist and Research Fellow at DeSmogBlog, where this piece first appeared.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

August 24, 2016
John Pilger
Provoking Nuclear War by Media
Jonathan Cook
The Birth of Agro-Resistance in Palestine
Eric Draitser
Ajamu Baraka, “Uncle Tom,” and the Pathology of White Liberal Racism
Jack Rasmus
Greek Debt and the New Financial Imperialism
Robert Fisk
The Sultan’s Hit List Grows, as Turkey Prepares to Enter Syria
Abubakar N. Kasim
What Did the Olympics Really Do for Humanity?
Renee Parsons
Obamacare Supporters Oppose ColoradoCare
Alycee Lane
The Trump Campaign: a White Revolt Against ‘Neoliberal Multiculturalism’
Edward Hunt
Maintaining U.S. Dominance in the Pacific
George Wuerthner
The Big Fish Kill on the Yellowstone
Jesse Jackson
Democrats Shouldn’t Get a Blank Check From Black Voters
Kent Paterson
Saving Southern New Mexico from the Next Big Flood
Arnold August
RIP Jean-Guy Allard: A Model for Progressive Journalists Working in the Capitalist System
August 23, 2016
Diana Johnstone
Hillary and the Glass Ceilings Illusion
Bill Quigley
Race and Class Gap Widening: Katrina Pain Index 2016 by the Numbers
Ted Rall
Trump vs. Clinton: It’s All About the Debates
Eoin Higgins
Will Progressive Democrats Ever Support a Third Party Candidate?
Kenneth J. Saltman
Wall Street’s Latest Public Sector Rip-Off: Five Myths About Pay for Success
Binoy Kampmark
Labouring Hours: Sweden’s Six-Hour Working Day
John Feffer
The Globalization of Trump
Gwendolyn Mink – Felicia Kornbluh
Time to End “Welfare as We Know It”
Medea Benjamin
Congress Must Take Action to Block Weapon Sales to Saudi Arabia
Halyna Mokrushyna
Political Writer, Daughter of Ukrainian Dissident, Detained and Charged in Ukraine
Manuel E. Yepe
Tourism and Religion Go Hand-in-Hand in the Caribbean
ED ADELMAN
Belted by Trump
Thomas Knapp
War: The Islamic State and Western Politicians Against the Rest of Us
Nauman Sadiq
Shifting Alliances: Turkey, Russia and the Kurds
Rivera Sun
Active Peace: Restoring Relationships While Making Change
August 22, 2016
Eric Draitser
Hillary Clinton: The Anti-Woman ‘Feminist’
Robert Hunziker
Arctic Death Rattle
Norman Solomon
Clinton’s Transition Team: a Corporate Presidency Foretold
Ralph Nader
Hillary’s Hubris: Only Tell the Rich for $5000 a Minute!
Russell Mokhiber
Save the Patients, Cut Off the Dick!
Steven M. Druker
The Deceptions of the GE Food Venture
Elliot Sperber
Clean, Green, Class War: Bill McKibben’s Shortsighted ‘War on Climate Change’
Binoy Kampmark
Claims of Exoneration: The Case of Slobodan Milošević
Walter Brasch
The Contradictions of Donald Trump
Michael Donnelly
Body Shaming Trump: Statue of Limitations
Weekend Edition
August 19, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Carl Boggs
Hillary and the War Party
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Prime Time Green
Andrew Levine
Hillary Goes With the Flow
Dave Lindorff
New York Times Shames Itself by Attacking Wikileaks’ Assange
Gary Leupp
Could a Russian-Led Coalition Defeat Hillary’s War Plans?
Conn Hallinan
Dangerous Seas: China and the USA
Joshua Frank
Richard Holbrooke and the Obama Doctrine
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail