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Saturday, March 01, 2014

What I Sent the State Department about the Keystone Pipeline

It's the last week for public comment on whether it's in the national interest to approve or deny the permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline.  Though I have no illusions whatever about the efficacy of such public comments, I feel an obligation to heave them into the churning blades of the government windmill, so below is what I just filed with the State Department via

March 7 is the deadline for comments; you might want to make your views known.

Here's what I sent:

My views of the proposed Keystone Pipeline project are based on 50 years' experience in and out of government working with federal land use planning and environmental impact assessment (EIA) -- sometimes on behalf of project proponents, sometimes on behalf of opponents, often working for and with ostensibly objective federal and state regulators.  I have learned to my great regret that as our EIA system is organized, the only thing one can be confident of is that any assessment is likely to be biased in favor of whatever project is under consideration.  The notion of an objective assessment of environmental impacts to inform decision-making has long since become archaic.  As far as I can tell, the assessment of the Keystone Pipeline's impacts is consistent with what has become our standard model -- an apologia for the project masquerading as an objective analysis.

Clearly the pipeline will have impacts on the environment, as does any such large project, both in its construction and in its operation.  Clearly too, it will facilitate the continued exploitation of Canada's tar sands, with all its immediate and long-term impacts.  By doing so it will contribute to our continuing dependence on fossil fuels with all the impacts on air, water, climate and other aspects of the environment that this dependence entails.

The key question seems to be whether Canada will continue to exploit the tar sands if the U.S. does not permit the pipeline.  If one assumes that it will, then it may be reasonable to argue that the pipeline is the lesser of two evils in that it may (a big MAY) be less damaging to the immediate environment of the U.S. than trucking the stuff or shipping it by rail.  But more and more forces are gathering in Canada and elsewhere to oppose the taking of the tar sands, with all the close-in and world-wide impacts that taking has.  Notable among the opposition are Canada's First Nations, with the support of their sister tribes south of the border, and those Nations control a good deal of the land across which an alternative route to the ocean would cross.  The tide MAY be turning -- or, of course, it may not.  The question is, which side is the United States going to be on?  Which side of history has our bet?

In the interests of its own citizens and everyone on earth who breathes and enjoys living here, I believe the U.S. should support the First Nations and their supporters in Canada and say no to the Keystone Pipeline.  Is this in our national interest?  Since as a nation we're part of the world, since we pontificate a great deal about being responsible world citizens and about taking care of the global environment, since ALL nations would be well advised to do what they can to protect that environment and reduce our contribution to climate change, I think the answer is obvious.  Yes, it's in the national interests of the U.S. to deny the permit for the Keystone Pipeline.

Thomas F. King


Anonymous said...

The keystone xl pipeline should be rejected not only on national, environmental, and tribal interest grounds but also on partisan grounds. if only our President had the courage to stand up for the health of the planet.

Tom King said...

Partisan grounds, Annonymous? You mean because Democrats ought not to like this kind of project? Would that things were so simple.