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In July of 2010, an Enbridge-owned pipeline spilled diluted bitumen from Canadian tar sands into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. The scientists shown here were assessing those impacts.
In July of 2010, an Enbridge-owned pipeline spilled diluted bitumen from Canadian tar sands into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. The scientists shown here were assessing those impacts. The Environmental Protection Agency has said that the clean-up is still incomplete.
Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman switched gears Tuesday and urged President Obama to approve a proposed new route for the Keystone XL pipeline even though it will still pose risks to the Ogallala Aquifer. That huge flow of underground fossil water provides drinking and agricultural irrigation supplies to eight states. Some foes of the pipeline in Nebraska organized by Bold Nebraska are planning a protest in Lincoln against Heineman's decision on Jan. 29.

Anthony Smith at the Natural Resources Defense Council noted:

The Governor's rubber stamp decision stems from a flawed process that is well-documented by the folks at BOLD Nebraska. This decision will not ease the concerns of Nebraskans worried about the impacts a spill could inflict the sensitive environments the pipeline would pass through. Moreover, Governor Heineman’s decision has no bearing on the fact that an approval of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would be fundamentally inconsistent with the plan to address climate change that the President outlined in his inaugural address.
A year ago, the Obama administration rejected an application from TransCanada to build the pipeline, citing problems with the route then proposed across Nebraska because it would cross vulnerable wetlands. The White House doesn't normally get directly involved with approval of pipelines, but because it would cross an international boundary it is an issue for State Department review and ultimately the president's decision.

A State Department spokeswoman announced Tuesday that the department expects to complete its environmental impact statement on the new route by the end of March. Because of mandated time allowed for responses to the EIS, that means no decision before sometime in May at the earliest.

The proposed pipeline, a 36-inch conduit from the extensive tar sands of Alberta to the refineries of the Texas Gulf Coast, would transport as much as 830,000 barrels of diluted bitumen daily across the heart of the United States. Dilbut, as it is called in industry jargon, can be refined into oil. However, from extraction to refining, the  fundamental nature of the bitumen in the tar sands makes it an especially dirty source of oil.

In his letter, Heineman notes that TransCanada will adhere to 57 safety conditions and that it has taken out $200 million in third-party insurance coverage in case there are any leaks.

This is a monstrous joke.

Dilbut was spilled from the 30-inch Entbridge pipeline into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan two-and-a-half years ago. The cost of that clean-up, which remains incomplete, was at last count more than $800 million.

(Read below the fold for how environmental advocates may respond if the Keystone XL pipeline's new route is approved by the White House ...)

Although environmentalists, including climate-change activist (and Daily Kos diarist) Bill McKibben, praised Obama's decision to reject TransCanada's application last January, they were disappointed when, less than three months later, he lauded and fast-tracked the 485-mile southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline—since renamed the Gulf Coast Pipeline Project. That was widely seen as an indication that the northern, border-crossing leg of Keystone XL would gain approval from the White House when it reapplied for a permit along a rejiggered route in Nebraska.

The president's welcome remarks on climate change in his inaugural address Monday has given environmental advocates some renewed hope that this issue, essentially ignored in the 2012 election campaign, will receive renewed attention. But they aren't taking anything for granted. Even the staid Sierra Club, as noted by its executive director (and Daily Kos diarist) Michael Brune, is planning on moving to civil disobedience activism to protest governmental delays in dealing with climate change:

For civil disobedience to be justified, something must be so wrong that it compels the strongest defensible protest. Such a protest, if rendered thoughtfully and peacefully, is in fact a profound act of patriotism. For Thoreau, the wrongs were slavery and the invasion of Mexico. For Martin Luther King, Jr., it was the brutal, institutionalized racism of the Jim Crow South. For us, it is the possibility that the United States might surrender any hope of stabilizing our planet's climate.
But while the the foes of the pipeline are planning their next line of attack, 53 senators, nine of them Democrats, sent a letter to President Obama Wednesday, urging him to approve the project. The Democrats who signed: Max Baucus of Montana; Mark Begich of Alaska; Joe Donnelly of Indiana; Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota; Mary Landrieu of Louisiana; Joe Manchin of West Virginia; Mark Pryor of Arkansas; Mark Warner of Virginia;
Kay Hagan of North Carolina.

Opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline and exploitation of the tar sands themselves, has come from First Nations peoples in Canada and the United States as well as environmentalists and land-owners along the route. McKibben and hundreds of other protesters were arrested in the summer of 2011 in Washington, D.C., for their civil disobedience against the pipeline. He and others will be there again on Feb. 17. If the White House approves Keystone XL, it seems likely that TransCanada's builders will encounter protesters putting up blockades and engaging in other acts of civil disobedience at every step along the way.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 08:33 AM PST.

Also republished by Climate Change SOS, EcoJustice, DK GreenRoots, Climate Hawks, Canadian Kossacks, and Daily Kos.

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