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Here's a commentary by National Nurses United Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro

With the clock ticking down on a final decision by the Obama administration on Keystone XL, it’s time to update why the nation’s largest nurses organization is opposed to a project that looks more like a pathway to pollution than a gateway to our gas pumps.

Citing the threat to public health and how the project would hasten the climate crisis, nurses have been on the front line of protests against Keystone, a 1,700-mile pipeline that would transport 830,000 barrels of dirty tar sands oil every day from Alberta, Canada to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries, largely for export.

Here’s a top 10 of reasons why National Nurses United opposes Keystone and a critique of some of the main arguments for it:

1. No jobs on a dead planet
More jobs are certainly needed, but even the just concluded State Department assessment conceded Keystone would support only 35 post-construction jobs.
Infrastructure repair and promoting a green economy is a far better solution for the jobs crisis than a project that NASA scientist and climate expert James Hanson famously calls “game over” on the climate front.  
If the threshold issue is jobs, nurses should support the pipeline as a full employment act in the volume of additional patients sickened by the pipeline’s health hazards and toll from accelerated climate change. But nurses see an inseparable link between environmental justice and the health of our communities and planet.

2. Don’t drink the water
From the ground to the pipe to the refineries, Keystone’s tar sands oil, with its thick, dirty, corrosive properties, pose a far greater hazard than conventional oil – a major reason for NNU and nurse opposition.  
Toxic contaminants in the massive water needed for extraction are infecting clean water supplies with towns nearby Alberta experiencing spikes in cancer deaths, renal failure, lupus, and hyperthyroidism. Huge pipeline spills near Marshall, MI and Mayflower, AR. have led to respiratory ailments and other health ills. Pollutants from tar sands refineries are linked to heart and lung disease, asthma, and cancer.

3. And don’t breathe the air
Mounds of Petcoke, the carbon residue of tar sands refining, piled up for export for burning, have produced toxic dust storms that have left area residents gasping near Detroit, Chicago, and other locales.
Canadian scientists are also alarmed at mercury “wafting” into the air from tar sands production which, in chronic exposure, have been linked to brain damage.

4. An asthma nation
Nurses see an explosion of asthma sufferers, especially children. More than 40 percent of Americans now live in areas slammed by air pollution with levels of particle pollution that can also cause higher incidents of heart attacks and premature death.
Keystone will multiply carbon emissionsand speed up climate change resulting in more polluted air, higher air temperatures which can also increase bacteria-related food poisoning, such as salmonella, and animal-borne diseases such as West Nile virus.

5. The gathering storms
In the last year alone, we’ve seen the worst cyclone ever to hit landfall, fueled by sub-surface ocean temperatures 9 degrees above normal, the largest recorded tornado ever recorded, record droughts, and other unprecedented weather anomalies. While some discount the link to climate change, there’s no dispute that the past decade was the hottest on record.
Nurses, as NNU’s RNRN volunteers can attest, treat the human collateral damage, thousands of patients affected by Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda in the Philippines, for example, who endured life threatening injuries and loss of their homes and livelihoods.

6. The carbon bomb  
All workers and their families live in the same communities affected by the climate crisis and the pipeline health hazards. Despite naysayers who insist there is no environmental justification to block it, there is as much scientific consensus on Keystone as there is on the human hand behind the climate crisis, or the factual evidence of evolution.
In addition to Hanson, who calls Keystone “the biggest carbon bomb on the planet,” dozens of other prominent scientists signed a 2013 letter stating “the actual and potential environmental damage (are) sufficiently severe to reject Keystone to protect the climate, human health, and the multiple ecosystems this project threatens.”
In simple terms, Keystone would generate the carbon emission equivalent of 40 million more cars or 50 coal-fired power plants every year.

7. Not headed to your gas pump
Contrary to the myth, Keystone would contribute little to U.S. energy independence.  The oil is headed to Texas ports for a reason – to be shipped overseas.  TransCanada, the corporation behind Keystone, balked at a Congressional proposal to condition approval on keeping the refined oil in the U.S., and reports say TransCanada already has contracts to sell much of the oil to foreign buyers.

8. Pipeline or bust for the tar sands industry
Proponents insist that if Keystone is blocked, the tar sands crude will just be shipped by rail. Many disagree, among them a pro-pipeline Canadian think tank that predicts without Keystone, “investment and expansion will grind to a halt,” a view shared by the International Energy Agency, Goldman Sachs and some oil executives.  Increasingly, it appears, the pipeline is the linchpin for tar sands development.

9. Which side are you on?
In one corner, the American Petroleum Institute, the oil billionaire Koch Brothers, other fossil fuel giants, the far right American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and politicians they influence – the same folks behind the attacks on unions, worker rights and health care and social justice reforms.
Standing with NNU in opposition are every major environmental group, farmers, ranchers and community leaders along the pipeline pathway, First Nations leaders, many clergy, most Canadian unions, and U.S. transit unions.  

10. A last word, from Robert Redford
 “The more people learn about the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, the less they like it,” says actor/environmentalist Redford. “Tar sands crude means a dirtier, more dangerous future for our children all so that the oil industry can reach the higher prices of overseas markets. This dirty energy project is all risk and no reward for the American people.”

RoseAnn DeMoro is executive director of National Nurses United and a vice president of the AFL-CIO

Originally posted to National Nurses Movement on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 01:07 PM PST.

Also republished by Climate Change SOS.

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Comment Preferences

  •  AS our planet becomes sicker and sicker…. (9+ / 0-)

    and politicians become dumb and dumber nurses will continue to fight for the health and well being of our patients... beyond the walls of our hospitals

  •  Health and the economy (13+ / 0-)

    Keeping the price of gas from rising won't do us any good if we have no more clean water to drink.

    •  And Keystone won't even do that - (7+ / 0-)

      keep gas prices from rising, that is.  It's all going to go overseas to whoever is the highest bidder - the market at work.

      "Wouldn't you rather vote for what you want and not get it than vote for what you don't want - and get it?" Eugene Debs. "Le courage, c'est de chercher la verité et de la dire" Jean Jaures

      by Chico David RN on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 03:10:17 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  You are right about KXL raising gas prices (0+ / 0-)

        but you are wrong when you say that all of the KXL oil is 'going overseas'

        The majority  of refined petroleum products produced from crude oil to be delivered by the KXL pipeline to U.S. gulf-area refineries will be consumed in the United States.

        Nothing about commencement of deliveries of from the KXL pipeline will alter the capacity of the process equipment at gulf refineries to produce product.

        •  Two sides to the story but one side lies. (0+ / 0-)

          Keystone XL would send this dirty Canadian oil to the Gulf Coast where it can be refined and exported. Many of these refineries are in Foreign Trade Zones where oil may be exported to international buyers without paying U.S. taxes. And that is exactly what Valero, one of the largest potential buyers of Keystone XL's oil, has told its investors it will do. The idea that Keystone XL will improve U.S. oil supply is a documented scam being played on the American people by Big Oil and its friends in Washington DC.

          Transporting this dirty crude has been a thorny issue for Canada.  The Canadian government has put the brakes on the two pipeline proposals to export tar sands through its provinces due to the need to take more time to listen to its own public's concerns about water and safety.

          Those who think they KNOW EVERYTHING really piss off those of us who DO.

          by olegar on Wed Feb 19, 2014 at 05:58:05 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  you said: (0+ / 0-)
            The idea that Keystone XL will improve U.S. oil supply is a documented scam being played on the American people by Big Oil and its friends in Washington DC.
            This is anti-KXL advocacy malpractice.

            The majority of PAD3 refinery products are consumed in the United States presently:


            Note US consumption of finished petroleum products is 1,207,755 thousand barrels in 2012 and exports are only 737,825 thousand barrels.

            Valero is never going to change this pattern.   Nothing about commencement of heavy sour crude deliveries from KXL alters present operation of gulf refineries which are operating at 90+ percent of their physical process capacity.

            Will oil companies try to export more in the future as Valero said?  Yes.    Will it be enough so that PAD 3 refineries are supplying most of their refined products to the export market?  No.

            You said:

            Two sides to the story but one side lies.
            The problem is that Oil Change International, Sierra Club and others keep making the charge that the purpose of KXL is an export pipeline  (saying this like it is "all" of export) when KXL is quite definitely an import pipeline to increase the supply of tar sands heavy sour crude in PAD 3 refineries to replace Mexican, Saudi and Venezuelan heavy sour crude these refineries presently use.

            From where I sit, environmental groups that say the oil is all for export are actually the ones lying and, in doing so, they commit issue malpractice since most of the anti-KXL camp organizations have been dragging around the export pipeline meme since they began dealing with the KXL issues.

            The purpose of the KXL pipeline is to import foreign tar sands crude into the United States and to make PAD3 refineries in the U.S. as dependent on tar sands crude sources as Midwestern refineries presently are.  As such KXL does not do anything for U.S.A. energy independence and balance of trade deficits from foreign crude oil imports.  KXL is intended to switch from non-Canadian sources of heavy sour crude to Canadian sources of heavy sour crude with a higher greenhouse gas emission intensity.....and that is why KXL should be defeated.

            •  I should not have done a Rand Paul post . . (0+ / 0-)

              as I did not credit the stats in the post.


              It is possible that this link and information is dated or less than accurate but it is where I had been reading when the Keystone XL fiasco started.  One of my hot buttons was the intent of a foreign company to use "eminent domain" to force property owners to submit to the construction of this pipeline over their objections.

              I believe that those who have been involved in the debate or should I say conflict, have credible evidence that belies the simplicity of the issues facing us over the Keystone XL and the transportation of dirty tar sands oil through this country and to our refineries.

              I see by your profile that you have far higher credentials for being able to assess this situation than I, and I defer to your expertise.  Having said that I wonder if you can give us more outreach and advice on how to tackle this issue.  

              I live in Louisiana and have seen the  extreme power wielded by energy companies to get what they wanted.  I know that we do need to rely on oil and natural gas for some time to come but in doing so we must be aware of the long term results of the extraction methods and reliance on energy companies for 100% factual information might lead us into a trance from which we might not be able to awaken.  

              I am fairly new to DKos and haven't done much but reply to other articles and comments.  I do wish to be better informed and active in doing as much as possible for our causes.

              Those who think they KNOW EVERYTHING really piss off those of us who DO.

              by olegar on Thu Feb 20, 2014 at 07:40:26 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

  •  thank you for this diary (7+ / 0-)

    Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell. --Edward Abbey

    by greenbastard on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 02:13:27 PM PST

  •  11. KXL would double the wealth of the Kochs. (9+ / 0-)

    Billionaires' Carbon Bomb - The Koch Brothers and the Keystone XL Pipeline (pdf) - report from the International Forum on Globalization, Oct 2013.

    When the Koch brothers disputed this report, IFG countered with extensive documentation of their claim that KXL would net them something on the order of an additional $100 billion, more than double their existing wealth.

    Nobody here needs to be told how the Kochs have spent the past thirty years using their oil wealth to undermine democracy in this nation. Imagine their having twice the money to use for their aim of turning the United States into an oil fueled, bigoted, plutocracy.

    "We can either have democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few. But we can't have both." - Justice Louis Brandeis

    by flitedocnm on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 02:16:29 PM PST

  •  Kos, why isn't this on the recommend list? (7+ / 0-)

    It's well written and presents a cogent argument for defeating the Keystone XL pipeline.

    Director RoseAnn DeMoro, thank you and the members of the National Nurses Movement for your efforts. You carry a lot more power to influence environmental policies than those of us who have no clout.

  •  Petcoke isn't toxic (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Petcoke itself isn't toxic. It really is just carbon dust. That's not to say that it's good to breathe all the time, and it can exacerbate breathing problems from the mere fact it's carbon dust.

    •  Perhaps not but... (4+ / 0-)

      If the air you breathe is heavily laced with it, it will do a pretty good job of imitating toxic.  I suppose one could say wood smoke is not toxic either, but one can't breathe it for very long.

      "Wouldn't you rather vote for what you want and not get it than vote for what you don't want - and get it?" Eugene Debs. "Le courage, c'est de chercher la verité et de la dire" Jean Jaures

      by Chico David RN on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 03:08:50 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  It's really nasty when it's burned (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        FarWestGirl, DawnN

        which is what they want to do with it; talk about coming out of left field

      •  You said: (0+ / 0-)
        If the air you breathe is heavily laced with it, it will do a pretty good job of imitating toxic.
        Petcoke dust is not generally regulated as a toxic air contaminant.   Petcoke dust is regulated as an air pollution source of PM (particular matter), PM-10 and PM-2.5 (depending on aerodynamic diameter of particle emissions).

        Inhaled particles do not have to contain toxic constituents in order for such inhaled particles to have adverse health effects on respiratory health  (with the finest particles capable of causing the most respiratory health and cardiac effect).

        I suppose one could say wood smoke is not toxic either, but one can't breathe it for very long.
        The constituents of wood smoke are quite toxic and include far, far more toxic air contaminants as benzene soluable organic matter than would be released by storage of petroleum coke.
    •  Not true, petcoke has heavy metal contaminates (5+ / 0-)

      like arsenic, lead and mercury. The pet-coke produced from tar sands bitumen have even higher more toxic levels of these heavy metals which gets into our environment because of the way pet-coke is currently stored.

      Really don't mind if you sit this one out. My words but a whisper -- your deafness a SHOUT. I may make you feel but I can't make you think..Jethro Tull

      by RMForbes on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 03:43:02 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Petcoke is mostly carbon with (0+ / 0-)

      lesser amounts of sulfur (about 3-4%) and a variety of metals, some toxic and some not, which will generally be present in petcoke at concentrations well under 1%.

      The toxicants present in petcoke will be roughly similar to the toxic constituents of eastern high sulfur, high chlorine coal.

      A portion of Petcoke dust is considered as PM-10 and PM-2.5.   Here in Michigan, petcoke dust is not a toxic air contaminant as defined by Michigan's air toxics rules.

    •  In other words, black lung disease. (0+ / 0-)
  •  Thank you for publishing this comprehensive diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    and from your very valuable perspective. Some want to minimize it, drag it into a debate on petcoke composition, whether they are envious, or industry puppets, I don't know.

    Again, thank you, how powerful, from AFL-CIO.

  •  in reaction to this (0+ / 0-)

    Argument #1 attempts to understate the importance of pipeline construction jobs and manufacturing to the construction of KXL.   There's a lot more than 35 permanent operator jobs at stake in the construction of this pipeline.  

    When environmental groups refuse to recognize the existence and legitimacy of construction jobs, particularly when they are union does not bode well for future relations between environmental groups and union labor groups, which both must learn to work together as Democrat-coalition groups.

    The first paragraph of Argument #2 is not a science-based argument because all of the claims have been conclusively rebutted by none other than the United States National Academy of Engineering....

    ...which found no basis to claim that pipeline transportation of tar sands crude is any riskier than pipeline transportation of conventional crude.

    Argument #7 .....

    Contrary to the myth, Keystone would contribute little to U.S. energy independence.  The oil is headed to Texas ports for a reason – to be shipped overseas.  TransCanada, the corporation behind Keystone, balked at a Congressional proposal to condition approval on keeping the refined oil in the U.S., and reports say TransCanada already has contracts to sell much of the oil to foreign buyers. not reality-based because it is an attempt to claim that all or most of the oil to be delivered by the KXL pipeline is for export.   Nothing about future oil deliveries from KXL will change the petroleum refinery process equipment that produces refined products from heavy sour crude as such gulf refineries.   The large majority of present Gulf refinery refined petroleum hyrocarbons are consumed in the United States.   KXL is not going to change this fact.

    The purpose of KXL is not to export crude oil;  KXL's purpose is to deliver Canadian foreign oil to existing gulf coast refineries who will stop using Mexican, Venezualan and Saudi conventional heavy sour crude and switch heavy sour crude from tar sands.

    Argument #9 will not be convincing with AFL-CIO in favor of KXL construction.

    What is missing from all of your argument is the following simple analysis:

    KXL is an import pipeline designed to continue United States reliance on foreign crude oil sources in a manner which will negatively affect the United States balance of trade deficit.  

    The decision to issue a presidential permit for KXL means that United States is choosing to switch from using the present foreign oil sources of conventional heavy sour crude to a far more damaging source of foreign oil with Canadian tar sands crude.  

    Creating or encouraging such a damaging national dependence on tar sands crude sources with the KXL decision cannot be considered in the national interest because KXL approval would mean U.S. Government indifference to the increased greenhouse gas emissions from tar sands crude sources.


  •  While there are many factors... (2+ / 0-)

    contributing to smog levels, such as weather, heat and geographical features, the one factor we can control is the amount of smog-forming pollution we put into the air.  It's incumbent upon us to stop the KXL "Carbon Bomb" from being deployed.

    Why? If you've even once been at the bedside of someone who's gasping for air due to asthma or emphysema or lung cancer, and you knew their suffering was traceable to particulate matter such as petcoke "dust" and refined petroleum hydrocarbons, you'd want to do everything in your power to help prevent it.

    As an ICU nurse with nearly 40 years of experience, I’ll never forget the look of panic on patients' faces, the sounds of the gasping and wheezing, and the pallor that sets in as patients suffer from the lack of desperately needed oxygen. Even those with optimal medical management, who get supplemental oxygen, are not able to get it diffused past severely damaged lung tissue.  

    As nurses we do the best we can to ease pain and suffering; as patient advocates we have a duty speak out and to take action. The science is there! Not everyone can be a nurse, but everyone can do something to prevent harm to the environment and the people that depend on a healthy planet for their very lives.

  •  Keystone Pipeline, nurses' opposition to it (0+ / 0-)

    Thank goodness for the nurses. "No jobs on a dead planet." Glad they made this reason #1 for opposing the pipeline and the DEATH GEL it will convey if allowed to be constructed. Was recently reading a book about China Peak, a local ski-area here in the central Sierra Nevada, which contains annual snowfall totals going back to the later '40's. Below average snowfall years from the 40's to the late '70's used to occur about once every seven years. Sometime in the '90's that reversed itself and now we have "good snow years" once every seven and below average snowfall to drought the rest of the time. Clearly there has been a change in our climate over the last 20 to 30 years. Perhaps you might think me selfish for wanting better snowfall totals for better skiing, but you would be wrong! Yes, I want better snow conditions for skiing, but I also like to lubricate my body w/water from time to time (otherwise known as hydration), and the ability to do that, for all of us to do that, is rapidly diminishing w/every passing year we fail to address our obviously man-made climate disaster. Why the hell would we want to exacerbate that by burning even more fossil fuels? The Keystone Pipeline will kick our demise into over-drive. NO KEYSTONE PIPELINE!

  •  The problem is (0+ / 0-)

    that, because of the right wing government in Canada, the tar sands are going to be developed whether we like it or not and the sludge will be moved across the USA whether we like it or not either by rail or by pipeline.

    The only decision left to us is which is worse. That crap being delivered anywhere in the US by rail or that crap being delivered to Texas by pipeline. Give the record of the railroads in delivering oil, the pipeline might be a better choice.

    •  I'm not sure whether it is an "either - or" (0+ / 0-)

      because some have stated that if the transportation of this stuff runs into trouble the extrication and continuing rape of  the Athabaska might stall.  I have little faith in that happening but when they proposed putting in this pipeline across their own provinces, instead of our states, they stirred up a much more strident opposition from their own population.  A pipeline of this size that fractured could be much worse than a train derailment but either way we would be screwed.

      What is the saddest thing to me in this whole fiasco, is the already done deal of wrecking a pristine aboriginal forest and watershed area the size of the state of Florida and sickening the environment for hundreds of mile radius around the dig.

      Those who think they KNOW EVERYTHING really piss off those of us who DO.

      by olegar on Thu Feb 20, 2014 at 08:16:23 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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