Tag Archives: Ogallala aquifer

Nebraska Governor Approves Keystone XL Route

23 Jan

Bloomberg Newsap-oil-pipeline-protest-4_3_r536_c534

HOUSTON — Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman has approved TransCanada Corp.’s revised route for the Keystone XL pipeline, clearing the way for a final decision from U.S. regulators on the project that would bring Canadian oil to the Texas coast.

The new route avoids Nebraska’s Sand Hills, an environmentally sensitive region overlaying the Ogallala aquifer, the state’s main source of groundwater. The pipeline will still cross the aquifer, though in a less sensitive area, according to a letter Heineman, a Republican, sent Tuesday to President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton informing them of his decision. Continue reading

New Keystone XL Route Is Environmental Disaster

3 May

by Center for Biological Diversity

After rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline proposal in January, President Obama gives a green light to its southern leg – a bid to ease a key bottleneck to new oil supplies and defuse critics on gas prices.

A new route for the Keystone XL pipeline that TransCanada will reportedly submit permit applications for as early as Friday avoids portions of the Sandhills in Nebraska but crosses the Ogallala Aquifer, as well as hundreds of other water bodies and habitat for a number of endangered species.

“The new Keystone route fails to avoid significant risks to an important aquifer and the rivers and streams that provide fresh water for millions of people and habitat for endangered species like the whooping crane, piping plover, and pallid sturgeon,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity, which has worked to stop the destructive pipeline project. “It’s a game of environmental roulette, and the American public is being asked to bear all the risk for a pipeline that will mainly benefit big oil’s bottom line by allowing export of dirty tar-sands oil to the global market.”

If constructed Keystone XL will transport tar-sands oil 1,700 miles across six states and hundreds of waterways, posing an unacceptable risk of spill. An existing pipeline called Keystone 1 has already leaked 14 times since it started operating in June 2010, including one spill that dumped 21,000 gallons of tar-sands crude. Another tar-sands pipeline spilled 800,000 gallons in the Kalamazoo River.

Strip mining of oil from Alberta’s tar sands is also destroying tens of thousands of acres of boreal forest and polluting hundreds of millions of gallons of water from the Athabasca River, in the process creating toxic ponds so large they can be seen from space. Extraction and refinement of tar-sands oil produces two to three times more greenhouse gases per barrel than conventional oil and represents a massive new source of fossil fuels that leading climate scientist Dr. James Hansen has called “game over” for our ability to avoid a climate catastrophe.

Contact: Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495

 

Canadian Tar Sands Pipeline Still Opposed by EPA

23 Jun

Landowners, agriculture group keeping up the fight against eminent domain and the Keystone XL pipeline. Is the State Department listening?
By Kate Schwab, 6-23-11

As the third phase of work on the international Keystone XL pipeline looms, the foreign corporation behind the tar sands project is posturing as a handful of landowners in eastern Montana gear themselves up for a fight over land rights.

The $13 billion project comes courtesy of TransCanada, a Canadian firm. It runs approximately 1,711 miles from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico. Most of the proposed route—1,384 miles of it— is in the United States. The first two phases of the pipeline have already been completed and are fully operational, the company’s website reports. It is supposed to be completed by 2013 and has been in the works for more than three years.

The company says it has already held dozens of meetings for public involvement and points to a Department of Energy study that concluded the pipeline could reduce American dependency on foreign oil from nations outside North America by up to 40 percent. The American Petroleum Institute, which supports the pipeline, also suggested recently that the U.S. could lose the tar sands crude to more cooperative overseas markets if the process continues to be stalled. But the proposed route cuts through a small triangle of northeastern Montana, and locals are not happy about it.

“I’m especially concerned about the safety and emergency preparedness along the route should there be a spill,” landowner Rick Kniepkamp, a resident of Lindsay, Mont., said. Kniepkamp is a member of the Northern Plains Pipeline Landowners Group, an association of affected property owners who have banded together to negotiate environmental and financial issues with TransCanada. Neither he nor any of the other stakeholders contacted by New West responded to requests for further comment.

Kniepkamp has legitimate reason for concern. The finished portion of the pipeline has already experienced several questionable incidents, including leaks in North Dakota and Kansas in May. And in comments released earlier this month, the Environmental Protection Agency said it is far from satisfied with the U.S. State Department’s current draft analysis of the project’s potential impact. In particular, the EPA objects to the report’s claim that the precise nature of the chemicals used to help bitumen flow through the pipeline should remain “proprietary information.”

The EPA also says that the pipeline could pose a hazard to the Ogallala aquifer, and concluded that the State Department had not pushed hard enough for thorough examination of alternate routes. Also called the High Plains aquifer, it lies below eight states, including Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico.

Montana landowners are none-too-thrilled with a recent change in state law that directly pertains to the pipeline. Governments, schools and some corporations serving public needs have long possessed the power of eminent domain – essentially, the right to purchase and use any piece of private property, regardless of an owner’s approval. Traditionally, eminent domain was reserved as a last resort for public works purposes, such as getting a road, power line or school built. House Bill 198, which passed in Montana’s 2011 legislative session, redefined eminent domain as the privilege of any company holding a Major Facilities Siting Act (MFSA) certificate. The bill has been heavily criticized as drastically expanding the power of private corporations to take land for nonpublic purposes, despite counter-claims from defenders that it merely reaffirms existing legal precedent.

Count Ed Gulick as one who disputes that defense. The chair of the Northern Plains Resource Council, a nonprofit agricultural advocacy group, Gulick attacked the change in a recent column distributed to Montana newspapers. He said the law was changed because proponents lost a court battle.

Another Canadian company tried to claim eminent domain for a private power line in Montana. Landowners fought back in court; the company lost when a judge found the company did not possess the eminent domain right. Previously, Gulick wrote, state law required companies “to prove that the project is for a public use, is necessary and is compatible with the greatest public good and least private injury. This test helped prevent eminent domain from being abused.” In contrast, he said, holding an MFSA certificat doesn’t offer adequate protection. “MFSA wasn’t written to protect the rights of landowners facing condemnation by a private corporation,” he wrote.

His organization, however, has been busy, hosting meetings with affected landholders. According to a statement from Northern Plains Research Council, the group has been working with Bozeman attorney Hertha Lund, who specializes in agricultural and land rights issues. She could not be reached for comment. A spokesman for the Northern Plains Resource Council also declined comment, saying staff were not permitted to speak to the media. A message left for a second staff member was not returned.

In February, a U.S. Department of Energy study concluded that the Keystone XL pipeline was not presently needed. In March, the State Department announced its intent to subject the project to new study. Notice was published in the Federal Register in April, with a new 45-day public comment window.

That window is now closed. The State Department is expected to release a completed environmental impact statement and make a final decision on the fate of the pipeline by the end of the year.

Kate Schwab is an intern for New West.

News source here

Editors note: EF!ers and allies in the struggle against the tar sands are invited to this years Summer Rendezvous which will take place in the Lolo National Forest along Hyw. 12 and will focus on building opposition to Exxon’s proposed tar sands corridor. From July 5th through the 12th we will gather in the Northern Rockies (Idaho, Montana) to unite minds, spirits and forces in order to prevent the Rockies from becoming a devastated landscape… For more information you should contact nref@rocketmail.com and/or visit northernrockiesrisingtide.wordpress.com