Even before President Obama has approved the controversial tar sands pipeline, which would carry oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, the US government is allowing grasslands and other sensitive areas to be cleared in preparation.
The Center for Biological Diversity, the Western Nebraska Resources Council and Friends of the Earth sued the U.S. State Department and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to stop work on this "illegal construction."
The lawsuit cites the State Department and Fish & Wildlife Service for violating the National Environmental Policy Act, which prohibits commencement of a project before it has been approved.
"It's outrageous that TransCanada is already clearing the way for the Keystone XL pipeline before the public has had a chance to have its say and, indeed, before federal agencies have even said it can be built," says Noah Greenwald at the Center for Biological Diversity. "It looks like the fix is in on this dangerous project, and the sham public process is nothing more than an afterthought."
Quietly, those agencies allowed TransCanada to mow a pipeline corridor through about 100 miles of native prairie grasslands in Nebraska's Sandhills and to remove endangered species living in the corridor.
Last week, hundreds of people opposed the pipeline at public meetings in Lincoln and Atkinson, Nebraska. The State Dept has been holding meetings along the pipeline right-of-way and concludes October 7 in Washington DC. There will be a noon rally and screening of a new film by award-winning director Leslie Iwerks called Pipe Dreams about the real costs of the proposed Keystone XL project
"The State Department has further confirmed that it is running a corrupt review process by giving TransCanada a green light to begin construction," says Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth. "It makes a mockery of the public and sends a message to Nebraskans that their concerns don't matter. President Obama must revoke the State Department's authority to review the Keystone XL pipeline in order to restore the public's trust."
The proposed Keystone XL pipeline would carry up to 830,000 barrels of oil strip-mined from Canada's "tar sands" across Nebraska's legendary Sandhills and hundreds of rivers and streams; it will pass directly over the Ogallala Aquifer, which is a source of drinking water for millions of Americans and a major source of water for agriculture. TransCanada's existing Keystone I tar sands pipeline has reportedly leaked 14 times since it went into operation in June 2010.
The $7 billion TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline will face many lawsuits if the State Department approves it, over endangered species, wetlands and other issues.
The State Department will make a decision this year, but it's already indicated it will give it the go-ahead. Despite the fact that oil produced from Canada's tar sands could doom the planet to catastrophic climate change, and even while hundreds were being arrested at the White House to protest it, the State Department said the pipeline posed little environmental risk.
This week we reported that emails retrieved under the Freedom of Information Act reveal a cozy relationship between a top Tar Sands lobbyist and the US State Department.
The world is watching the US decision on the pipeline. The US won the "fossil award" for its stance until now on the Keystone XL pipeline at the international climate conference in Panama this week.
Beginning Thursday, October 6, the energy behind Occupy Wall Street will travel to DC's Freedom Plaza, between the Capitol and the White House, where thousands of people will gather to demand that America invest "in human needs and environmental protection instead of war and exploitation.