Fight Intensifies Over Tar Sands Pipelines

Nebraska’s governor approved the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline this week, based on its new route, increasing the pressure from Republicans and some Democrats for President Obama to approve the project.

The State Department postponed their decision on the pipeline until the end of March, which will then be subject to public comment before the final decision.

Protests have been ongoing against the southern leg of the pipeline and read below for major actions this week on the east coast and in South Dakota.

Tar Sands Emissions Worse Than Coal

A new report from Oil Change International shows the pipeline would fuel climate change even more than originally thought.

Until now, the emissions from petroleum coke (petcoke), a high carbon byproduct of the refining process hasn’t been factored into the equation, but new research finds it adds another 13% of carbon emissions to tar sands. 

Petcoke is like coal, but dirtier, they say.  

Even without including petcoke into emissions calculations, the EPA’s figures show that replacing conventional crude with the same amount of tar sands oil would increase carbon emissions as much as adding 6 million cars on the road.

Approving the pipeline would be a key step in Canada’s goal to triple tar sands production by 2030.

The Pembina Institute’s paper, "The climate implications of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline," shows that pipelines are a key determinant of tar sands expansion.

New research also shows that the impact of tar sands production is much wider than previously thought. Lakes as far as 55 miles away are contaminated with toxic and carcinogenic chemicals.

Six billion barrels of oil sands mining waste (enough to stretch to the moon and back 12 times) is currently stored in huge dams that cover an area larger than the city of Vancouver.

People that live near tar sands refineries are being subjected to intense sulfur dioxide pollution at levels similar to moderate or large coal-fired power plants.

The Canadian government has been overhauling environmental rules to aid tar sands expansion.

Actions Against Tar Sands Escalate

This week, indigenous nations from across the US and Canada, and allies are in South Dakota at the "Gathering to Protect the Sacred From the Tar Sands and Keystone XL." 

In an unprecedented unified action among Indigenous Nations, farmers and ranchers, and business and environmental leaders, attendees will sign an International Treaty to block the Keystone XL TransCanada Pipeline. 

"Through this action the United States Government will be notified that any future approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline will be considered a further grave abrogation of the 1863 Treaty, and possibly other related treaties, and would have very regrettable consequences. Already, the Black Hills Sioux Nation Treaty Council stated on December 21st 2012 they were "vehemently opposed to the construction of the TransCanada/Keystone XL Pipeline Project on any Aboriginal or Treaty lands."

Another tar sands pipeline is being proposed for the US east coast, which would travel through Ontario and Quebec into the US in Vermont and then go through New Hampshire and Maine to the port of Portland, from where it would be exported.

Thousands of people from across Ontario, Quebec and New England are protesting this week in the biggest cross-border tar sands protests the region has seen.

That 236-mile long pipeline is owned by ExxonMobil and Enbridge, and has been carrying conventional crude oil in the opposite direction for 62 years. It travels through some of the most beautiful, sensitive lands filled with lakes and rivers.

On Sunday, February 17, thousands of people will head to Washington D.C. to make Forward on Climate the largest climate rally in history.

Final Decision in Kerry’s Hands

The ultimate decision on whether to approve the XL pipeline is in Senator John Kerry’s (D-MA) hands when he takes over as Secretary of State. He has one of the strongest records on climate change, and made it clear that wouldn’t change in his role during confirmation hearings yesterday. 

When asked about the Keystone XL decision, Kerry said: "It will not be long before that comes across my desk. And at that time, I’ll make the appropriate judgments about it."

Let’s hope he makes the decision based on science and facts. 

Curious about where Your oil comes from? Check out this map: 

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