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Keystone XL and the Shutdown, Plus “Don’t Take ‘No’ For an Answer”

KXL opponent Tim Steyer asks if Keystone XL and the shutdown are related, as others point to the “Polluted Process” involved.

KXL opponent Tim Steyer asks if Keystone XL and the shutdown are related, as others point to the “Polluted Process” involved.

Politics and drama, whether we like it or not, frequently go together, with one current example being Keystone XL and the shutdown, plus the words from Canadian Prime Minister and big KXL proponent, Stephen Harper, and those from strong KXL opponent and billionaire, Tom Steyer. Last week, at the Canadian / American Business Council in New York, Harper took what Huffington Post called a “hard line” when asked what his response would be if the Obama administration ultimately rejected the KXL pipeline proposal.

‘My view is you don’t take ‘no’ for an answer,’ Harper said. ‘This won’t be final until it’s approved and we will keep pushing forward.’

Steyer took issue with those comments in his letter to the prime minister.

‘Have your government, your government’s lobbyist and/or agents representing TransCanada communicated with House Republicans about including Keystone in the original litany of demands put to President Obama?’ Steyer asks in the letter to Harper sent Friday. …

Steyer says in the dispatch that TransCanada is launching a new advertising campaign aimed at stakeholders in Washington, D.C.

(Also from Steyer’s letter) ‘Included in the original list of House Republican demands was that the Obama administration grant approval for the building of the Keystone XL pipeline.’

Putting the advertising campaign together with Harper’s “don’t take ‘no’ for an answer” comments, Steyer writes

‘… raises the question of whether your office is working hand-in-hand with TransCanada to try to exploit the current situation in Washington, D.C., at the expense of the American people.’

Reporting the same story, the Toronto Star says that Harper is currently traveling in Asia, and hasn’t responded to Steyer’s letter.

But here in D.C., the suggesting was met with eye-rolls. Not only is the Keystone XL approval process not getting any faster, sources in Washington say, the interaction between Canadian and U.S. officials has come to a standstill.

Actually, there’s no reason both couldn’t be accurate: that Harper encouraged – directly or otherwise – the inclusion of KXL in Republican demands, but that the approval process of the pipeline is, for duration of the shutdown, stuck in place.

An earlier warning came from Friends of the Earth, in a September 27 post by Ross Hammond.

The showdown over Obamacare isn’t the only reckless political ploy that threatens to shut down the government. Republicans in Congress pushing the Keystone XL pipeline say they will not vote to raise the nation’s debt ceiling, which would allow the government to pay for what it has already spent, unless the Obama Administration fast-tracks approval of the project.

The shutdown is certainly making a difference in what the various agencies involved with environmental and climate concerns can do with significantly reduced personnel, including in the EPA, Department of Interior, the Bureau of Land Management and the Department of Energy.

Climate Central discusses various environmental impacts of the shutdown, from that on employees to “Obama’s Climate Agenda”:

About 94 percent of the employees of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have been sent on leave of absence as part of the U.S. government shutdown. …

(John O’Grady, a union representative at the EPA’s Chicago office) said most employees at the EPA had already lost about six days’ pay due to leave since last April, and pay scales have been frozen since 2010.

The largely forgotten sequester has real life impacts. Turning to a bigger picture:

EPA officials had warned earlier that a shutdown could hurt Obama’s climate change agenda. The agency was about to roll out new rules for promoting the use of biofuels, and tougher penalties against polluters.

The EPA was also working to set the first limits on carbon pollution from power plants – the pillar of Obama’s climate change agenda. Those rules are still on course for release in June 2014 – but some Republicans on Tuesday still cheered the prospect of a shuttered EPA.

‘There is some good news out of the shutdown, the EPA can’t issue new regulations,’ Marsha Blackburn, a member of Congress from Tennessee, said on Twitter.

There’s a well oiled silver lining for you.

Back to the Friends of the Earth article, which focuses on what it calls the “polluted process” of KXL, the State Department and “conflicts of interest.” They include an “infographic,” the headline of which – “Polluted Process” – is in the photo at the top.

The truth is that from day one, the State Department’s review of the pipeline has been polluted by conflicts of interest, insider lobbying and the heavy hand of Big Oil. A new infographic just released by Friends of the Earth and 350.org gives the details: To conduct the crucial evaluation of the pipeline’s environmental impacts, the State Department has repeatedly turned to contractors hand-picked by pipeline builder TransCanada. So it’s no wonder that the Canadian government, TransCanada, Congressional Republicans and the oil industry have all along all lavished praise on the State Department’s reviews of Keystone XL.

To be accurate, there are some Congressional Democrats who also support KXL, and President Obama not only supported but expedited the construction of the southern leg, in a part of the nation included in what’s often referred to as the “energy sacrifice zone,” by some of those who live in it.

Another part of the criticism of the State Department study comes via EcoWatch:

A new analysis by the Center for Biological Diversity … finds that the State Department’s review of the Keystone XL pipeline woefully underestimates the impacts it would have on some of America’s most endangered species, including whooping cranes, northern swift foxes, piping plovers, … and others. The study found that State Department failed to fully consider the impacts that oil spills, power lines, habitat destruction, construction disturbances and expanded tar sands development in Canada will have on at least 12 endangered animals and plants.

It’s seems unlikely that the shutdown will have a long-term impact on KXL, or other such pipelines, though of course, should Mr. Steyer’s concerns in fact be accurate, then I suppose the tar sands delivery system would be a grand bargaining chip.

(KXL Timeline Infographic Capture Via Friends of the Earth)

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2 Responses to Keystone XL and the Shutdown, Plus “Don’t Take ‘No’ For an Answer”

  1. fangio October 7, 2013 at 12:15 pm #

    Would be nice if there were more people like Steyer , former Goldman Sachs investment superstar and successful former owner of Farallon Capital , who one day becomes an environmental activist with no qualms about putting his money where his mouth is.

    • Joyce Arnold October 7, 2013 at 1:39 pm #

      It would indeed be nice for more people like Steyer to step up. I’ll have another post up soon about that sort of thing.

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