Dueling Keystone Kops: USEPA, State Department May Clash Over Tar Sands Oil Pipeline


"The Keystone Kops are an incompetent group of policemen that featured in silent film comedies in the early 20th century." Image credit:Wikipedia

According to an article in yesterday's Lincoln Journal Star, "The EPA announced Tuesday that it had placed the TransCanada project in a category headed "Environmental Objections" and said what the State Department has done so far with an environmental impact statement is based on insufficient information." This means USEPA, in spite of not being a cabinet-level agency, is refusing to rubber stamp the Keystone XL pipeline project, which was designed to bring Alberta Tar Sands oil down to US Gulf Coast refineries.As you might well imagine, Republican legislatures along the proposed pipeline corridor are lining up in support of the project, as is every Republican (and as are some Democrats) in the US House of Representatives.

Texas and Louisiana will be wild hog for the pipeline, no doubt, for reasons I explained yesterday in: Césped Artificial: Lobbying The Obama Administration For Big Oil, Hispanic Style

Gulf coast refinery operators are excited to get that Alberta Tar Sands oil down their way, via pipeline. The US State Department has been intensely lobbied to approve the international boundary crossing needed to get the 2,000-mile, north-south pipeline built. The final government decision will be all about business.

Refiners naturally would prefer to bring the tar sands oil south, to existing operations and related infrastructure in Texas and Louisiana. That way they can take advantage of not only existing refineries, but also of existing deep injection wells, incinerators, & water treatment for various waste streams; of hydrogen suppliers vital for cracking the heavy oil; and, last but not least, to take advantage product storage, distribution, and export (port) facilities.

Perhaps I should explain the Keystone Kops metaphor. Ideally, the State Department would have coordinated closely with USEPA through the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) preparation, such that there would be no big surprise or major inter-agency disagreements after the draft goes out for review. As it appears now, the public might see one thing in the EIS and hear another from USEPA. Unless Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State, asks Obama to force Lisa Jackson, USEPA Administrator, to back down and get out her rubber stamp. Having watched videos of Lisa giving testimony to Congress, I doubt she'll roll that fast.

It looks like big oil will win this one, ultimately, after the TeeVee features public hearings filled with well paid astroturf legionnaires lining up to testify in favor of the project. (See Brian's post just above this one for an illustration of how it will look - Tea Partiers Protest Cap and Trade in NYC)

Obama, we hardly knew ye.

If that seems too cynical an assessment, scroll on down to Brian's Obama is a Pushover on the Environment: Ex-Interior Secretary.

Update: Few realize that the proposed pipeline corridor will host two parallel pipe trains. The south-flowing line will carry oil mixed with diluent, which is oil-patch talk for a refinery byproduct stream that in previous years might have been made into something that no one wants anymore - oil based paint for example - while the north-flowing line will contain re-distilled 'diluent' pumped back all the way to Alberta for godsakes, so they can mix it with oil again and send the mixture south. Yes, there is a reason it is called "tar sand" - it is tarry and thick and does not pump well unless mixed with 'diluent.' Especially in winter.

Anyway, aside from the mystery of what happens to newly made refinery byproduct diluent once both pipelines are full (Possible Hints: fugitive emissions and incineration.) the keystone question is: what happens if the north flowing pipeline leaks? Fire hazard and toxicity hazard for pure dliuent will be very different than for oil. Inquiring corn, soy, and wheat farmers want to know. Duck hunters and fisherman too. Homeowners, also.

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