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#KeystoneXL: Three comments to @StateDept as to “Why #NoKXL?”

March 7th, 2014 · 1 Comment

Today is the last day to provide comments to the Department of State as to the KeystoneXL pipeline national interest determination.

The reviewers of public comments — if they take their work seriously and responsibly — have a lot of work ahead of them.  While there are some 54,897 comments, already registered as of the time of this blog post, citizens’ groups are planning to deliver millions to the Department of State in a few minutes. [UPDATE: Press release from event after the fold, after my comments …]

To date, I have posted three comments which are reposted after the fold.

These comments are each unique and they take three different angles:

  1. Connecting Keystone XL back to me as an individual, with individual expertise, and expertise.
  2. Laying out how Keystone XL will not serve U.S. national interests; and
  3. Highlighting the need to look at this within the larger context of our necessity to stop investing in fossil fuel (fossil foolish) infrastructure.

I hope you find the comments interesting and valuable.

Keystone XL comment #1:

The KeystoneXL pipeline is simply not in the U.S. national interest and should not be approved.

Here are core basic points as to ‘why not’ Keystone:

Keystone XL will:

* Increase climate risks by enabling increased production of dirty tar sands (both through the fuels’ carbon content and damage to the boreal forests’ ability to retain carbon)

* Worsen environmental damage in Alberta, CA, due to increased tar sands exploitation

* Increase gasoline and diesel prices for most Americans

* Hurt American economic competitiveness (due to increased pressure on US fuel prices and lower pressure on world oil prices)

* Have serious health impacts on people living in the United States

* Undermine our path to a clean-energy future

* Undermine and discredit any U.S. efforts to lead on climate change issues internationally

On the other hand, KeystoneXL will NOT reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil, will NOT lead to net job creation, will NOT improve international security, will NOT improve our energy security, will NOT serve American nor Americans’ interests.

Keystone Comment #2

I am an American citizen, taxpayer, voter desirous of well-run government.

I am a patriot, who has volunteered for and served in multiple hazardous zones in support of national objectives, having shown my willingness — on multiple occasions — to risk my life to help secure the nation.

I am a parent, with three children, hoping for a future where they will have a chance to succeed and thrive.

I am an analyst, able to understand situations from multiple dimensions, hopeful that thoughtful and honest analysis supports decision-making in a well-run government that working to secure the nation and create a prosperous future where my (and all American) children have the best environment to create their own successes.

I am — with these in mind — passionately opposed to KeystoneXL approval.

Keystone XL approval would be BAD GOVERNANCE

To date — the Keystone XL review process has been riddled with questionable activity, such as contractor dishonest on conflict of interest statements and misalignment of the review process with the national objectives for greenhouse gas emission reductions. Questionable ethics — if not outright illegality — have riddled the process.


Climate Change represents the most serious risk for the future prospects for humanity — which includes, not least for me, my children’s future prospects. Unmitigated climate change will drive rising seas (threatening not just beach resorts but massively important economic infrastructure and ecosystems around the world), disrupt agricultural systems, make parts of the world essentially uninhabitable compared to today, foster increasing weather whiplash, and … Keystone XL will foster increased tar sands production and add a tangible — a significant — amount of carbon pollution.

Keystone XL approval would be based on BAD ANALYSIS

The Department of State reviews have serious analytical flaws. These include:

* Use of a marginal cost for additional Tar Sands production of $45 per barrel rather than the accepted industry figure of $60 per barrel. That $15 dollar difference is critical for understanding how Keystone XL will — contrary to the report’s conclusion — facilitate greatly expanded Tar Sands production and thus “contribute significantly to worsening climate change”.

* Using “Business as Usual” (BAU) Energy Information Administration (EIA) figures for looking at carbon implications when those EIA BAU scenarios (a) guarantee climate catastrophe with temperature increases far above 2 degrees centigrade and (b) are at odds with the President’s stated objectives for reducing carbon emissions by 17 percent by 2020.

In the analytical world, there is a standard joke: “Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics”. In this case, we perhaps need to add a fourth category: “Oil-Industry Provided Statistics Used By the Department of State in the Keystone XL Review”.

Simply put: Keystone XL approval would be a catastrophic step in the wrong direction.

Keystone Comment #3

American governance — from local governments through states to the Federal government — has a problem: we see and review programs and situations through stovepipes.

This became clear to me in a local permitting situation over 15 years ago. Within two miles of my home, there were over a dozen projects that were before the planning board. For every single one of these, the planning board told the political decision makers that the project ‘would have no meaningful impact on traffic’ and thus there was no requirement to do any transportation improvements. While no specific project would add more than 100 cars to the morning/evening rush hour, the 12 projects together were forecasted at that time to add more than 500 vehicles. (And, well, another point is that the analysis was faulty: one development of 130 million dollar homes was said to be adding only 20 cars to morning/evening rush hour as ‘the owners would walk to work’ (nearest offices about a mile away …) — actual figures have been over 150 …) When I asked the planning commission staff about the impact of 500 cars, they told me that ‘this will hurt the traffic situation and we should add lights and some turn lanes’ but (BUT) they were prohibited from analyzing aggregate impacts for decisions about any specific project.

Keystone XL is a quite similar circumstance.

President Obama has stated a threshold for approval: whether it will “significantly” contribute to worsening climate change. Now, of course, “significantly” can (and does) mean different things to different people. The real problem is that we cannot and should not be viewing this one (HUGE) project in isolation.

We face a simple reality: we must move away from our current polluting energy economy and toward a cleaner, sustainable, and more prosperous economy.

Every dollar, every penny, every worker hour that we — as a nation and society — invest in increased fossil fuel infrastructure means resources taken away from creating the clean energy future.

While KeystoneXL is not a sensible project on its own merits (it will raise American gas prices, foster increased tar sands production, end up having a net negative impact on American employment due to those increased fuel prices, …), it is an incredibly important and tangible choice about our collective future: Will we put the pedal to the metal and hurtle off the climate cliff like Thelma and Louise or are we serious about creating a more secure, prosperous, and climate friendly future for the United States and its (born and yet-to-born) citizens?

Keystone XL decision making is a moral referendum on our willingness to do the simplest thing we must do to avert catastrophic climate disruption: Stop making it worse.

Specifically and categorically, we must cease making large, long-term capital investments in new fossil fuel infrastructure that “locks in” dangerous emission levels for many decades.

Keystone XL is not in the U.S. National Interest on its own and certainly not in our interest when taken out of a stovepiped look and considered with the broader context of what we must do to avert catastrophic climate chaos.

Press release as to deliver of millions of comments to State Department mid-day 7 March 2014:

To: Rachel Wolf <wolf@NEWPARTNERS.COM>
Subject: Keystone XL Opponents Deliver 2 Million+ Comments

For Immediate Release:                                                  Contact: Whit Jones

March 7, 2014 914-671-1880

Keystone XL Opponents Deliver 2 Million+ Comments; Tell Secretary Kerry KXL is Not in Our National Interest

Washington, DC – On the last day of the public comment period, Keystone XL opponents held a rally in front of the State Department to deliver more than 2 million comments submitted to the State Department to urge Secretary Kerry and President Obama to reject the dirty, dangerous pipeline. The public comment period regarding the national interest of the pipeline began on February 5, after the State Department published the final environmental review.

These 2 million+ comments telling Secretary Kerry and President Obama that Keystone XL is not in the national interest exceed the more than one million comments submitted last year that expressed concern about the draft environmental review – showing a growth in concern about the risky project. Hundreds of rallies and vigils have also been held across the country, urging Secretary Kerry and President Obama to oppose the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

The same activists are prepared to mobilize in celebration following a rejection, and more than 86,000 have signed a Pledge of Resistance to commit acts of civil disobedience if Secretary Kerry recommends approval of Keystone XL to President Obama.

Given the serious concerns about climate impacts, environmental and health concerns, and the lack of a route in Nebraska, Secretary Kerry has sufficient information to conclude that Keystone XL is not in our national interest and to recommend that President Obama reject the permit.

Even the State Department’s oil-soaked analysis acknowledged that the pipeline would significantly exacerbate climate pollution under certain scenarios and flagged serious water issues.

Secretary Kerry has stated that the ongoing 90 day National Interest Determination process, in which eight agencies can comment on whether the tar sands pipeline is in our national interest, marks the beginning of his involvement in the process. The EPA’s comments on two previous State Department analyses included significant concerns about State’s process and findings.

The 2 million+ comments will be buttressed by ads in blue and orange line metro cars that read:

Secretary Kerry: You’ve spent a lifetime challenging Weapons of Mass Destruction. Don’t ignite one. Say no to Keystone XL.

Nearly 900,000 of the comments came from international pipeline opponents, including Desmond Tutu. People around the world are watching Secretary Kerry on this issue, and his recommendation on Keystone XL will shape his international reputation and efficacy.

Gene Karpinski, League of Conservation Voters President: “When we asked our hundreds of thousands of members across the country to send comments to the State Department, they responded with an overwhelming call to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Nobody has done more to fight climate change than Secretary Kerry, and I’m confident that as he reviews the public comments, the science, and the facts, he will find that this dirty, dangerous pipeline is not in the national interest and must be rejected.”

Maura Cowley, Energy Action Coalition Executive Director: “Just last weekend 398 young leaders got arrested at the White House to protest Keystone XL, and more than 2 million are submitting comments to stand with these young people and demand President Obama and Secretary Kerry reject Keystone XL. If President Obama and Secretary Kerry want to maintain the enthusiasm of young people, and the country, they must show they stand with us, not Big Oil, and reject this dangerous pipeline.”

Frances Beinecke, Natural Resources Defense Council President: “This new outpouring of public opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline demonstrates yet again that the more Americans learn about this project the more we want the Obama Administration to reject it. Instead of embracing the dirtiest oil on Earth, let’s put America squarely on the path to a cleaner energy future. This tar sands project would only aid and abet our oil addiction and worsen climate change. It is not in America’s national interest.”

Michael Brune, Sierra Club Executive Director: “We are at a crossroads, and a road paved with tar sands will take us over the climate crisis cliff. American families have embraced 21st Century clean energy prosperity and can’t wait to leave behind 19th Century fossil fuels that pollute our water, air, land and public health.

“President Obama, with Secretary of State John Kerry’s counsel, now have an obligation and opportunity to reject the dangerous Keystone XL pipeline and support the American ingenuity that is already generating remarkable clean energy success.”

Bill McKibben, Co-Founder:“For three years now there’s been an absolutely unprecedented outpouring of reaction to this pipeline proposal: from scientists, Nobel laureates, economists, theologians, and most of all from us ordinary Americans across the country. It’s the biggest blizzard of public comment about any infrastructure project—and now we’ll see if the Obama administration will listen to the people, or to the big oil boys.”

Elijah Zarlin, CREDO’s Senior Campaign Manager: “Secretary Kerry was absolutely right when he said that climate change is a weapon of mass destruction — and that means he must oppose the carbon bomb that is Keystone XL. If the two million comments opposing Keystone XL doesn’t convince Sec. Kerry to stand by his own words and recommend President Obama reject this pipeline, then more than 86,000 Americans are ready to risk arrest in massive civil disobedience.”

Stephen Kretzmann, Oil Change International Executive Director:“Secretary Kerry and President Obama have a simple choice: they can stand with Big Oil or they can stand with the millions of Americans calling for rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline. By rejecting the pipeline, they can live up to their own words and commitments, and move our country in a new direction away from fossil fuels and the climate chaos they are bringing upon us.”

Erich Pica, Friends of the Earth President: “For the sake of our children, it is a diplomatic imperative that the State Department fights to prevent climate change. If Secretary Kerry intends to remain a climate champion, he should draw the line here and tell President Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline.”

Jane Kleeb, Bold Nebraska Executive Director: “We stand with Pres. Obama when he echoed our concerns: ‘Nebraskans are not going to take a few thousand jobs if it’s means our drinking water and our kids health could be put at risk.’ The State Department confirmed the proposed route still crosses the Sandhills and Ogallala Aquifer. TransCanada is a foreign tarsands pipeline without a route in our state and we have the determination and numbers to keep it that way.”

Amanda Starbuck, Rainforest Action Network Climate Program Director:“We’re hearing from people all across this country who know that the Keystone XL pipeline is absolutely not in our nation’s best interest. The two million comments delivered today reflect a huge wave of resistance to the pipeline. From the Oglala Lakota Sioux fighting to stop the pipeline from entering their territory to the hundreds of students arrested at the White House gates, we stand united with everyday Americans who are ready to do what it takes to stop this pipeline, once and for all.”

Ricken Patel, Executive Director: “The Keystone decision could, in one stroke of the pen, make or break Kerry’s ability to lead climate action on the global stage. And it will determine whether the US is serious about fighting to save the planet, or even able to meet its existing global emissions reductions. Nearly two million people are calling on the US to lead the world to a better climate future. It’s up to Kerry to heed them.”

Jim Lyon, National Wildlife Federation Senior Vice President for Conservation:“Today more than two million Americans add their name to the call for President Obama to say no to Keystone XL, far outnumbering industry proponents who outspent those asking for denial by 35 to 1.  The President has all he needs to reject this dangerous pipeline that would cut through America’s heartland and put people and wildlife at risk.  We are confident that the President will stand by this commitment to tackle climate change and reject projects, like Keystone XL, which will increase our addition to fossil fuels.”

Kieran Suckling, Center for Biological Diversity Executive Director: “Keystone XL promises to spill oil, ruin pristine lands, threaten wildlife and worsen the climate crisis. There’s no way it’s in the national interest and more and more Americans know it. Secretary Kerry and President Obama have a clear choice: Approve Keystone and embrace the climate-killing fossil fuels of the past, or reject Keystone in favor of energy policies that are safer for people, wildlife and a healthy climate.”

Participating organizations, Avaaz, Bold Nebraska, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Media and Democracy, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Climate Parents, CREDO, Energy Action Coalition, Environmental Action, Environmental Defense Fund, Faithful America, Food & Water Watch, Friends of the Earth, Green America, Interfaith Power and Light, League of Conservation Voters, Moms Clean Air Force, Montana Environmental Information Center, Mosaic, MoveOn, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Northern Plains Resource Council, Occupy Network, Oil Change International, PDA, Public Citizen, Rainforest Action Network, Sierra Club, SumOfUs, The Other 98%, and We Love Our Land.


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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 John Egan // Mar 9, 2014 at 10:12 pm

    The latest poll shows a 3 to 1 support for Keystone approval. Keystone is likely to influence the results of at least 7 current Democratic Senate seats in 2014. Are you willing to sacrifice these in order to fall on your sword?

    I can assure you that the Republican who stand to win these seats will not be opposed to Keystone. But more, they will be hostile to a whole range of environmental concerns – not to mention fair wage, healthcare, military intervention and a whole gamut of other issues.

    On a global scale, Keystone is a drop in the bucket. Yet, it has become the proverbial “line in the sand” for which many on the left are willing to sacrifice a generation of progressive possibilities and, most likely, a roll-back of a generation of more of advances.

    Trust me – I’ll be back in touch after Labor loses in Tasmania and South Australia this week – leaving not one state government or the federal government under Labor when Labor controlled all just 6 years ago.

    You are producing the same result here in the U.S. – despite that fact that the GOP runs candidates from the looney bin.

    In Tasmania, Labor has broken harshly with the Greens – perhaps just a desperate political ploy – but on the grounds of basic materialist issues – income, jobs, cost of living. As I have stated before, I believe that the net impacts of Green initiatives are fundamentally reactionary – even if the stated intent of Greens is otherwise.

    Keystone is a prime example.