Environment | Opinion

Dean Suagee: Keystone XL Pipeline and climate change debate

Reject and Protect: The Cowboy Indian Alliance held a series of protests in Washington, D.C., in April 2014. Everything is Illuminated/Pool Photos

Attorney Dean Suagee explains why the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline is so troublesome for the environment.
Climate change is real, and the fact that Keystone XL has moved as far along toward approval as it has is a source of distress to many of us who have taken the time to become informed about the causes of global warming. Although the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (FSEIS), prepared for the State Department, concluded that whether this particular pipeline gets built will have little incremental impact on climate change, many of us who have read relevant parts of the FSEIS do not find its analysis persuasive. Rather, we find it deeply flawed.

There are many other reasons why a great many people – including a diverse coalition of organizations such as the Cowboy Indian Alliance – are so strongly opposed to this proposed pipeline. I will offer some comments on other reasons in part two of this commentary next week. This part focuses on climate change.

Keystone XL would transport a form of crude oil extracted from the “tar sands” region of Alberta. According to the FSEIS, oil derived from tar sands is about 17 percent more GHG-intensive than conventional varieties of crude oil consumed in the United States. That’s “wells-to-wheels” and does not appear to account for the loss of the carbon sequestering function of the forests that are being clear-cut and stripmined or cut up into fragments for in situ extraction. Mining the tar sands is an ugly, dirty business. See for yourself: Google “tar sands Alberta.”

South of the border, we don’t seem to care much about the impacts in Canada. The FSEIS says that even if the pipeline is not built, the government of Canada and the fossil fuel companies will find a way to get the tar sands crude to refineries, even if they have to ship it by rail. This conclusion, which has been widely reported in the media, is based on a “market analysis” which, in effect, ignores the possibility that governments around the world will actually step up and deal with GHG emissions sometime in the next few decades.

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Dean B. Suagee: Reasons Why President Obama Must Reject Keystone XL (Indian Country Today 2/13)

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