The Canadian pipeline TransCanada probably won't know until the end of the year whether the U.S. State Department will approve its controversial request to pipe heavy, acidic crude oil from Canada's tar sands region across six Midwestern states to a Texas port on the Gulf of Mexico. Yet the foreign corporation's lawyers are already filing eminent domain lawsuits against American farmers and ranchers, who fear and oppose the Keystone XL pipeline, to take their land for the unapproved project. The company's presumptuous and premature eminent domain actions form just one of many reasons why Americans -- and Washington -- should oppose the pipeline project.
The proposed pipeline is under attack by a broad range of critics for several good reasons. Though TransCanada claims the 36-inch pipeline would be safe and would not rupture and pollute the Midwest's vital aquifers, farmers, scientists and environmentalists reasonably fear the potential pollution of the precious Ogallala aquifer, which is vital to irrigation and drinking water supplies in the Great Plains.
Their concern is well grounded. TransCanada's existing pipeline had to be shut down earlier this year after two leaks, in Kansas and North Dakota. Scientists believe the coarseness and acidity of the heavy tar-sands sludge could well cause similar leaks in the proposed pipeline. That's prompted Nebraska's Republican governor to request that the proposed pipeline be rerouted around his state.
Environmentalists and green-energy advocates oppose the project for equally valid reasons. The energy-consumption required for extracting and refining crude oil from tar-sands gook is far more energy intensive than regular oil drilling and refining. That skews its green footprint, and the volume of its corresponding carbon emissions, off the charts. The candid assessment of NASA's chief climate scientist, James Hansen, is that if Canada gets to market its vast reserves of tar-sands crude in high volume, it will be "essentially game over" for serious attempts to contain carbon emissions and global warming.
Americans, moreover, not be using the bulk of the tar-sands oil that TransCanada would risk shipping through its American pipeline, moreover. Most of that oil would be sold abroad. Of the six companies that already have contracted for 75 percent of the pipeline's volume, five are foreign, and they would buy the oil for export to international markets. The sixth company, Valero, an American company, is also export-oriented.
So why would it be fair or reasonable to require American farmers and rangers to surrender their land under eminent domain proceedings, and accept the environmental risk of a private foreign corporation's for-profit pipeline through a 1,700-mile corridor in the United States, just to see the oil sent abroad? The answer is obvious: it wouldn't be fair, nor would it be environmentally sound.
Yet the State Department's political officers, it has now been revealed, are guiding TransCanada's lobbyists' in their request for approval of the pipeline. No wonder the company chosen by the State Department to assess the environmental risk of the pipeline turned out to be Cardno Entrix, which has had TransCanada as a client. That deceit, like the State Departments joyous reliance on Cardno Entrix' finding that the environmental impact of the pipeline would be "insignificant," smacks of insider cronyism and a flawed assessment process.
It now seems clear that the science and American landowners' interests run counter to TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline, but that the Obama administration, which has previously touted green energy, is tilting, for whatever reason, the other way. The administration should reverse course and act in America's interests by rejecting the pipeline. If the Canadian government wants to help TransCanada export tar-sands sludge, let it help build the pipeline to one of its own ports.