News that doesn't receive the necessary attention.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Obama administration Keystone XL Pipeline analysis finds negligible climate impact, final decision could take another year. 'Money is going to flow' to bring busloads of 'activists' to DC.

1/31/14, "Keystone XL Pipeline Given High Marks in State Department’s Final Environmental Impact Statement," cato.org, Paul C. 'Chip' Knappenberger

"The just-released Final Environmental Impact Statement from the State Department concluded..."

"The net global warming impact from the pipeline oil amounts to somewhat less than 1/100th of a degree Celsius over the next 100 years.

So if the president wants to kill the Keystone XL pipeline (clearly he does, because he has had ample opportunity to approve it), he’ll have to find a reason to do so other than a climate one. Unfortunately for him, trying to kill it for other reasons would be equally ill-founded."

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Billionaire Tom Steyer is mentioned in the following article without noting his financial interest in opposing the pipeline.

1/31/14, "Report Opens Way to Approval for Oil Pipeline," NY Times, Coral Davenport

"The State Department released a report on Friday concluding that the Keystone XL pipeline would not substantially worsen carbon pollution, leaving an opening for President Obama to approve the politically divisive project.

The department’s long-awaited environmental impact statement appears to indicate that the project could pass the criteria Mr. Obama set forth in a speech last summer when he said he would approve the 1,700-mile pipeline if it would not “significantly exacerbate” the problem of greenhouse gas emissions. Although the pipeline would carry 830,000 barrels of oil a day from Canada to the Gulf Coast, the report appears to indicate that if it were not built, carbon-heavy oil would still be extracted at the same rate from pristine Alberta forest and transported to refineries by rail instead.

The report sets up a difficult decision for Secretary of State John Kerry, who now must make a recommendation on the international project to Mr. Obama. Mr. Kerry, who hopes to make action on climate change a key part of his legacy, has never publicly offered his personal views on the pipeline. Aides said Mr. Kerry was preparing to “dive into” the 11-volume report and would give high priority to the issue of global warming in making the decision. His aides offered no timetable.

“He’ll deliberate and take the time he needs,” said Kerri-Ann Jones, the assistant secretary of state for oceans and international affairs.

Environmentalists said they were dismayed at some of the report’s conclusions and disputed its objectivity, but they also said it offered Mr. Obama reasons to reject the pipeline. They said they planned to intensify efforts to try to influence Mr. Kerry’s decision. For more than two years, environmentalists have protested the project and been arrested in demonstrations against it around the country. But many Republicans and oil industry executives, who support the pipeline because they say it creates jobs and increases supplies from a friendly source of oil, embraced the findings.

The State Department is expected to shortly release the results of an inspector general’s investigation into the preparation of an earlier draft of the environmental impact report. The investigation was ordered after an environmental group obtained documents indicating that some consultants for the firm that wrote the draft report had previously done work for TransCanada, the company seeking to build the pipeline. If investigators determine a conflict of interest in the preparation of that draft, the State Department may have to conduct a new environmental review.

In light of the investigation, environmentalists were particularly critical of the report released on Friday.

“In what could be perceived as eagerness to please the oil industry and Canadian government, the State Department is issuing this report amidst an ongoing investigation into conflicts of interest, and lying, by its contractor,” said Erich Pica, the president of Friends of the Earth.

Some environmentalists saw reason for optimism in the review, which models several possible future oil market possibilities. Most involve a future of high oil prices and robust demand, in which the oil sands crude is rapidly developed with or without the Keystone pipeline. However, the report offers one alternative sequence, in which oil prices and demand are low. In that case, not building the pipeline might slow development, and thus slow carbon emissions. That possibility is unlikely, but it could provide the administration something to point to should it deny the project.

“We’re taking the inclusion of that scenario as good news,” said Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, director of international programs at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The oil industry applauded the review. “After five years and five environmental reviews, time and time again the Department of State analysis has shown that the pipeline is safe for the environment,” said Cindy Schild, the senior manager of refining and oil sands programs at the American Petroleum Institute, which lobbies for the oil industry.

There are political and strategic advantages to approving the pipeline: It would strengthen relations with Canada and provide a conduit for oil from a friendly neighbor. If the pipeline is approved this year, it could also help the re-election campaigns of two vulnerable Democratic senators from oil-rich states — Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana and Mark Begich of Alaska — while silencing critics who for years have urged the president to move ahead with the pipeline.

Environmentalists said that if Mr. Obama were to approve the pipeline, it would destroy his efforts to make progress on climate change. Thomas F. Steyer, a California hedge fund billionaire and a major donor to Mr. Obama’s presidential campaigns, has started an advocacy group, NextGen Climate Action, that has spent heavily campaigning against the pipeline.

Larry Schweiger, the president of the National Wildlife Federation, said: “This is a large source of carbon that’s going to be unleashed. We’re headed in a terribly wrong direction with this project, and I don’t see how that large increase in carbon is going to be offset.”

Although the pipeline is a potent political symbol, its true impact on both the environment and the economy would be more limited than either its supporters or its opponents suggest.

The new State Department report concludes that the process used for producing the oil — by extracting what are called tar sands or oil sands from the Alberta forest — creates about 17 percent more greenhouse gas emissions than traditional oil. But the report concludes that this heavily polluting oil will still be brought to market. Energy companies are already moving the oil out of Canada by rail.

“At the end of the day, there’s a consensus among most energy experts that the oil will get shipped to market no matter what,” said Robert McNally, an energy consultant who was a senior energy and economic adviser to President George W. Bush. “It’s less important than I think it was perceived to be a year ago, both politically and on oil markets.”

The new State Department analysis took into account the growing global demand for oil and the rapidly growing practice of moving oil by rail in areas where pipelines have not been built. “Given the anticipated outlook of oil prices and the cost of development, no single project will likely affect the rate of extraction,” said a senior State Department official, who asked not to be named under the ground rules imposed by the department.

But moving oil by rail has its own hazards. As the practice has increased in recent years, so have incidents of explosions of rail cars carrying oil.

Supporters of the pipeline say it will create jobs, though the number may be limited. A study by the Cornell Global Labor Institute concluded that the pipeline would create about 3,900 construction jobs over two years.

Privately, people close to Mr. Obama say that although he is committed to building a climate legacy, he does not see the pipeline as a central part of that effort. Instead, the president is moving forward with a set of Environmental Protection Agency regulations on coal-fired power plants, the nation’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Those regulations do not have the potent political symbolism of the pipeline, but could have a far greater impact on the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions by freezing construction of new coal plants and closing hundreds of existing ones.
 
Ahead of making his decision, Mr. Kerry will take counsel from the leaders of eight other government agencies: the Departments of Defense, Justice, Interior, Commerce, Transportation, Energy and Homeland Security and the E.P.A. It is unclear when the decision might be made, but some close to the process say it could take as long as a year.

Environmentalists are preparing to influence the next stages of the decision-making process.

This is the most scrutinized pipeline in the nation’s history,” said Brigham A. McCown, a former administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. “The fact that it’s lasted as long as it has means one of two things. They’ve either done a very good, thorough job, or they’ve slowed it down due to political pressure.”"

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Citation about Tom Steyer financial interest:

9/26/13, "Climate Skeptics Against Global Warming," thebreakthrough.org, Michael Shellenberger & Ted Nordhaus

"Consider New Yorker writer Ryan Lizza's glowing profile of Tom Steyer, the billionaire bankrolling the anti-Keystone campaign. After Lizza suggested that Steyer and his brother Tom might be the Koch brothers of environmentalism, Steyer objects.  The difference, he insists, is that while the Koch brothers are after profit, he is trying to save the world.

It is telling that neither Lizza nor his editors felt it necessary to point out that Steyer is a major investor in renewables and stands to profit from his political advocacy as well."...

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Billionaire Tom Steyer is again mentioned without noting his financial interest in opposing the pipeline. Not mentioned about the Sierra Club is it's received millions in funding from billionaire Michael Bloomberg who also has massive financial interest in opposing the pipeline. Bill McKibben is quoted in the report but it's not mentioned that his group 350.org is partners with oil billionaire David Rockefeller. Also not mentioned is that Saudi Arabian interests see US energy self-sufficiency as a threat to the existence of other oil producing countries and are mobilizing media to address the problem.

1/31/14, "Pipeline Opponents’ Hopes Now Rest Largely on Kerry," NY Times, Sarah Wheaton and Coral Davenport

"Environmental activists have not been shy in their fight against the Keystone XL pipeline. They have wrapped a giant pipeline around the White House fence, marched on Washington in the frigid cold, been arrested, and followed President Obama around the country to press their concerns while raising millions of dollars for the cause. 

So on Friday, they largely dismissed the findings of a long-awaited State Department review that concluded the project — which would send 830,000 barrels of oil from Alberta to the Gulf Coast — would have little impact on the rate of development of oil sands. It was another signal that Mr. Obama may approve the project, although the official decision is in the hands of Secretary of State John Kerry.

The final report largely echoed the conclusions in earlier reports that the pipeline would not affect greenhouse gas emissions.

“This is about what we were expecting,” said Tiernan Sittenfeld, senior vice president for government affairs for the League of Conservation Voters, reflecting the view of opponents that the review process has been biased in favor of the pipeline because its contractor has ties to the oil industry. The industry itself celebrated the report. 

“The study is welcome news and validates the important benefits” of the pipeline, Curtis Smith, a spokesman for Shell Oil, said in an email. “We remain confident Keystone will be determined to be in the best interest of the country — clearing the way for the project to go forward.”

Karen Harbert, the chief executive of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy, said, “If the final decision is based on facts, then it’s a go.”

Still, opponents of the pipeline found some encouragement in the report, in passages that subtly vindicated their warnings. 

“This report today reflects some grudging movement,” said Bill McKibben of 350.org, a group that has made opposition to the pipeline its signature issue. 

Activists pointed to a line in the report contending that the “total direct and indirect emissions associated with the proposed project would contribute to cumulative global greenhouse gas emissions.” 

In a conference call with reporters, Mr. McKibben said, “This report gives President Obama everything he needs in order to block this project.”

Pipeline opponents said they were now hanging their hopes on Mr. Kerry, who is expected to issue his conclusion on the pipeline in the coming months. An executive order signed by President George W. Bush gave the secretary of state the final say on cross-border pipeline projects. "...

[Ed. note: Obama isn't bound by Bush's exec. order, is free to issue his own exec. orders. All Secs. of State are in place for the purpose of enacting the Pres.'s views.]

(continuing): "Until now, reports on the pipeline’s impact were written by teams of career government officials and contractors lawyers, scientists, economists and engineers. The activists said they hoped their efforts would gain momentum with Mr. Kerry, who has a history of environmental advocacy."...

[Ed. note: The same "career government officials...lawyers, scientists, economists and engineers" were supposed to be the final word on countless other multi-billion dollar climate science decisions.]

(continuing): "“I think the secretary has proven himself to be a lifelong advocate for tough action on climate, and we are cautiously confident that he will, along with the president, make the right decision,” said Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club.

On Monday, activists plan to hold “rapid-response vigils” around the country, primarily at the State Department and other federal offices, said Elijah Zarlin of Credo, one of several groups backing the demonstrations. Ms. Sittenfeld said a campaign to inundate State Department offices with emails and phone calls will begin early next week.

“Given the lack of a key breakthrough,” Mr. Zarlin said, activists are going to be “more motivated than ever.”

The same holds true for the groups’ wealthy donors, said Betsy Taylor, a philanthropic adviser on environmental issues. 

“The biggest effect right now is that more money is going to flow,” said Ms. Taylor, adding that she had already received an offer from a donor to pay for the buses to bring activists to Washington. 

Mr. Obama has a mixed record with environmentalists, who have cheered his regulations on car emissions and the coal industry, but have been frustrated by other moves to continue to use and export fossil fuels. They said the Keystone XL pipeline would be another knock against his environmental legacy. 

“It makes no sense to be taking these giant steps forward, but at the same time to turn around and take other giant steps backward,” Ms. Sittenfeld said."

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LA Times says Obama will make the final decision. A 350.org member says, "We expect many more people will take part in civil disobedience and take to the streets before this fight is over."

1/31/14, "State Dept.: Keystone XL would have little impact on climate change," LA Times, Neela Banerjee

"A long-awaited environmental review of the Keystone XL pipeline released Friday by the State Department found the project would have a negligible impact on climate change, bolstering the case for the controversial project as it heads to the White House for a decision on its construction. During a sweeping speech on climate change last June, President Obama said his main criterion for approving the pipeline was that it not significantly worsen the problem of carbon pollution.

Because the northern stretch of Keystone XL, which would carry 830,000 barrels a day from Hardisty, Alberta, Canada, to Steele City, Neb., would cross a U.S. border, it needs a so-called presidential permit from the State Department. But Obama has said that he would make the final decision....


The president has no deadline to issue a decision on the pipeline’s permit. Given the contentiousness of the issue, Obama may delay until after the November elections. A decision on the permit was expected in late 2011 but was postponed until after the 2012 presidential election, in part because of widely held concerns that the original environmental impact statement did not adequately assess the pipeline's effect on greenhouse gas emissions or on a huge aquifer in Nebraska....

 
As the White House works on the determination of national interest, environmentalists vowed to ratchet up the pressure to reject the pipeline.


“The release of the new report will be a green light to escalate our efforts,” said May Boeve, executive director of 350.org, an environmental group. “This fight got started at the national level when 1,253 people got arrested in front of the White House. We expect many more people will take part in civil disobedience and take to the streets before this fight is over.”"
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1/3/2013, “My Perfect Adventure: Michael Brune,” OutsideOnline.com, Avital Andrews
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“In early 2010, Brune became the Sierra Club’s sixth executive director;... in 2011, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg donated $50 million to support the Club’s efforts to shut down coal-fired power plants, a huge vote of confidence in Brune’s guidance.”…


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11/15/13, "Saudi billionaire sees a world awash in oil," The Globe and Mail, Toronto, Jacquie McNish



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