Flaherty talks tough with U.S. in wake of Keystone pipeline delay : reports

Energy Politics

Finance minister Jim Flaherty is “talking tough” according to the Globe and Mail’s Steven Chase  and threatening the Americans with the Northern Gateway pipeline in the wake of the postponement of the Keystone XL project.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty [is] warning the postponement could kill the project and accelerate this country’s efforts to ship oil to Asia instead.

“The decision to delay it that long is actually quite a crucial decision. I’m not sure this project would survive that kind of delay,” Mr. Flaherty told Bloomberg News. “It may mean that we may have to move quickly to ensure that we can export our oil to Asia through British Columbia.”

The original Bloomberg article also reports:

Flaherty, 61, will travel later this week to Beijing, where he will discuss increasing energy exports to China and facilitating investment in Canadian natural-resource assets. Enbridge Inc. (ENB) has proposed building a pipeline, called Northern Gateway, that would transport crude from Alberta’s oil sands to Canada’s Pacific coast, while Kinder Morgan Inc. plans to expand its Trans Mountain route to do the same.

Keystone decision means Enbridge must account for climate affect of Northern Gateway, environmental group tells Joint Review Panel

Environment Energy

A coalition of environmental groups led by ForestEthics says the fact the US State Department included climate change in its decision to reassess the Keystone XL pipeline means that Enbridge just do the same for the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline from Alberta to Kitimat.

Even before the Keystone decision, the environmentalists filed a motion with the Northern Gateway Joint Review that would compel the panel to consider the up-stream impacts of tar sands from the Northern Gateway pipeline, as well as climate change impacts.

The groups say they filed the motion with the Joint Review panel on October 10 and have not yet received a response, even though, according to the group, the NGJR panel should respond within seven days.

A news release from ForestEthics says:

The State Department and the Obama administration’s decision to delay the Keystone XL pipeline sends a clear signal to Canadian decision makers,” says Nikki Skuce, Senior Energy campaigner with ForestEthics. “In the context of the climate change threat, credible pipeline review includes climate impacts…”

The Keystone decision came down to the concerns of thousands of American citizens,” said Jennifer Rice, Chair of The Friends of Wild Salmon. “Citizen concern is just as strong in Canada. We’ve had a record-breaking 4000 citizens sign-up to speak on the Gateway pipeline, and we hope Stephen Harper learns something from President Obama’s listening skills.”

ForestEthics spokesman Nikki Skuce said:

The Joint Review Panel has been reluctant to consider climate change and tar sands impacts in their assessment of Northern Gateway, yet Enbridge argues the need for this pipeline based on tar sands expansion… [President Barack] Obama’s decision sets a new North American standard for credible pipeline review. We hope the federal government does the right thing for Canadians and the planet, by including climate and tar sands impacts in their review process.

Related Links
Friends of the Wild Salmon

Keystone “too important not to proceed” TransCanada CEO says

Energy Environment Politics

622-tc_logo-thumb-110x27-621.jpgThe CEO of TransCanada,  Russ Girling, reacting to news that the US State Dept. has delayed approval of the Keystone XL pipeline said Thursday, Nov. 10, 2011, “This project is too important to the U.S. economy, the Canadian economy and the national interest of the United States for it not to proceed.”

While Girling also said, “”We remain confident Keystone XL will ultimately be approved,” but the news release from TransCanada also acknowledged:

… while Keystone XL remains the best option for American and Canadian producers to get their oil to the U.S. Gulf Coast, today’s announcement by the DOS could have potential negative ramifications, especially where shippers and U.S. refiners are concerned.

“Supplies of heavy crude from Venezuela and Mexico to U.S. refineries will soon end,” said Girling. “If Keystone XL is continually delayed, these refiners may have to look for other ways of getting the oil they need. Oil sands producers face the same dilemma – how to get their crude oil to the Gulf Coast.”

In the release, TransCanada says the company will be discussing its next steps with the U.S. Department of State after it said further analysis of route options for the Keystone XL pipeline need to be investigated, with a specific focus on the Sandhills in Nebraska.

TransCanada said the company has already studied 14 different routes for Keystone XL, eight in Nebraska. The earlier studies included one potential alternative route in Nebraska that would have avoided the entire Sandhills region and Ogallala aquifer and six alternatives that would have reduced pipeline mileage crossing the Sandhills or the aquifer. TransCanada said the company hopes this work will serve as a starting point for the additional review and help expedite the review process.

“If Keystone XL dies, Americans will still wake up the next morning and continue to import 10 million barrels of oil from repressive nations, without the benefit of thousands of jobs and long term energy security,” concluded Girling. “That would be a tragedy.”

TransCanada said it has held more than 100 open houses and public meetings in six states since 2008, The company said thousands of pages of supplemental information and responses to questions were submitted to state and federal agencies. The State Department received over 300,000 comments on the project.

Pembina urges Harper to follow US “objective perspective” of Keystone in looking at Northern Gateway

Energy Environment

The Pembina Institute, the Alberta based environmental and energy think tank has reacted to the decision by the United States Department of State to delay approval of the Keystone XL bitumen pipeline by urging Prime Minister Stephen Harper to under take a similar “objective perspective” on the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline from the Alberta bitumen sands to Kitimat.

In a news release, Pembina spokesman Dan Woynillowicz said that US President Barack Obama “has made it clear that he has heard the concerns of Americans about environmental protection, climate change, and the need for the United States to create a clean energy future.”

The State Department release on the decision did include “climate change,” which Pembina interprets as, “The fact that climate change will be explicitly considered in the final decision is notable given the higher greenhouse gas pollution associated with oilsands compared to other sources of oil.”

Woynillowicz said the US decision shows that the regulatory process should be ” based on the best available information and analysis, and will take into account the views and concerns of American citizens.”

He then goes on to say:

“This decision stands in stark contrast with the Canadian government’s approach to the proposed Enbridge Gateway pipeline that would transport oil sands product to the West Coast. Rather than maintaining an objective perspective on this pipeline, Prime Minister Harper and his cabinet have been actively promoting its approval before public hearings on the environmental impacts of the project have even begun.

“The Canadian government should take a lesson from the U.S. and ensure a broader and more rigorous review of Gateway is completed, including the upstream environmental and greenhouse gas impacts of expanding oilsands development to fill the pipeline.”

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US State Department delays Keystone approval until 2013, new route likely if approved

Energy Environment Politics

 Updated 1915 Nov. 10, with link to TransCanada statement, 1940 with more reaction.

The United States Department of State has delayed approval of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline until 2013.

A news release posted on the State Department’s website confirmed earlier media speculation about a delay in the pipeline project approval until after the current US presidential election cycle.

Based on the Department’s experience with pipeline project reviews and the time typically required for environmental reviews of similar scope by other agencies, it is reasonable to expect that this process including a public comment period on a supplement to the final EIS [Environmental Impact Statement]…  could be completed as early as the first quarter of 2013. After obtaining the additional information, the Department would determine, in consultation with the eight other agencies…  whether the proposed pipeline was in the national interest, considering all of the relevant issues together. Among the relevant issues that would be considered are environmental concerns (including climate change), energy security, economic impacts, and foreign policy.

The State Department release also indicates that,if the Keystone XL pipeline is approved, it will likely be rerouted around environmentally sensitive areas, further delaying construction and likely raising costs for TransCanada, the company that wants to build the pipeline. The release says that the State Department has been “conducting a transparent, thorough and rigorous review of TransCanada’s application.”

As a result of this process, particularly given the concentration of concerns regarding the environmental sensitivities of the current proposed route through the Sand Hills area of Nebraska, the Department has determined it needs to undertake an in-depth assessment of potential alternative routes in Nebraska…

During this time, the Department also received input from state, local, and tribal officials. We received comments on a wide range of issues including the proposed project’s impact on jobs, pipeline safety, health concerns, the societal impact of the project, the oil extraction in Canada, and the proposed route through the Sand Hills area of Nebraska, which was one of the most common issues raised….

The concern about the proposed route’s impact on the Sand Hills of Nebraska has increased significantly over time, and has resulted in the Nebraska legislature convening a special session to consider the issue.

The CEO of TransCanada, Russ Girling, reacting to news that the US State Dept. has delayed approval of the Keystone XL pipeline said Thursday, Nov. 10, 2011, “This project is too important to the U.S. economy, the Canadian economy and the national interest of the United States for it not to proceed.”

Girling also said, “”We remain confident Keystone XL will ultimately be approved.

The premier of Alberta, Alison Redford called the decision “disappointing,” saying in a news release:

“It is disappointing that after more than three years of exhaustive
analysis and consultation on this critical project, we find out that a
decision will be delayed until early 2013. Our position has always been
clear that we respect and understand that approval of the pipeline is a
U.S. domestic matter, but the fact remains that Keystone XL is a key
piece of infrastructure for our province. I sincerely hope that the
State Department made this decision based on science and evidence and
not rhetoric and hyperbole from very well-organized interest groups.

Alberta is steadfastly committed to this project and my government will
continue to advocate that we are the safest, most secure and responsible
source of oil for the United States. I will seek immediate answers
from U.S. officials to determine why this decision was made and how the
process will unfold going forward.

The industry group the American Petroleum Institute was less diplomatic than Redford, in its own words, the API “blasted” the decision and directly blaming what it called “radicals.”

This decision is deeply disappointing and troubling. 
Whether it will help the president retain his job is unclear, but it
will cost thousands of shovel-ready opportunities for American workers,”
said API President and CEO Jack Gerard.

“There is no real issue about
the environment that requires further investigation, as the president’s
own State Department has recently concluded after extensive project
reviews that go back more than three years.  This is about politics and
keeping a radical constituency opposed to any and all oil and gas
development in the president’s camp in November 2012.

There has been speculation that cancellation or delay of the Keystone XL project would increase pressure to build the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline.


Keystone XL delayed until 2013, media reports say

Energy  Politics

Numerous media reports, quoting sources, are saying that approval of  the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to Texas has been delayed until 2013,  after the current American election cycle.

The New York Times
says U.S. to Delay Decision on Pipeline Until After Election

The Obama administration is preparing to delay a decision on the contested Keystone XL pipeline while it studies an alternate route, effectively pushing any action past the 2012 election, officials and lobbyists who have been briefed on the matter said on Thursday. An announcement is expected as early as Thursday afternoon.

The proposed project by a Canadian pipeline company had put President Obama in a political vise, squeezed between demands for secure energy sources and the jobs the project will bring, and the loud opposition of environmental advocates who have threatened to withhold electoral support next year if he approves it.

CBC reports Keystone project reportedly shelved until 2013

The U.S. State Department will order another environmental assessment for the Keystone XL pipeline route, allowing U.S. President Barack Obama to shelve the controversial issue until after the 2012 elections, media reports said Thursday.

Earlier Reuters and Bloomberg reported that US State Department had ordered new studies on the route of the Keystone pipeline.

Reuters says

The United States will study a new route for the Keystone XL Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline, U.S. officials said on Thursday, delaying any final approval beyond the 2012 election and sparing President Barack Obama a politically risky decision for now.

The delay was a victory for environmentalists who say oil sands crude development emits large amounts of greenhouse gases. It would deal a blow to companies developing Alberta’s oil sands and to TransCanada Corp, which planned to build and operate the conduit.

Analysts have said a long delay could kill the $7 billion project because it would cause shippers and refiners to look for alternative routes to get Canadian oil sands crude

The questions for northwestern British Columbia is, whether long delays in the Keystone XL pipeline will ramp up pressure to build the Northern Gateway pipeline from Alberta to Kitimat. One big difference here is that Stephen Harper has already won re-election and has a safe and pro-pipeline majority government.

Enbridge confident of avoiding Keystone XL woes: Globe and Mail

Energy Link

In Enbridge confident of avoiding Keystone XL woes, The Globe and Mail reports on Enbridge’s US bound pipelines. (So it is not really a story about Northern Gateway, although the Keystone and Gateway projects are similar)

Enbridge Inc. is expressing confidence that it won’t be harmed by the problems that have dogged its rival TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL line.

Enbridge has secured substantial support for two of its own new U.S. pipeline projects – one called Flanagan South, the other Wrangler. But because the Enbridge projects would run through existing pipeline corridors, chief executive Pat Daniel said he believes the company can avoid some of the loud environmental criticism that has caused delays – and the threat of serious new problems – for Keystone.

The Kochs and Keystone XL: Columbia Journalism Review

Columbia Journalism Review looks at the Koch brothers, their Canadian holdings, and attempts to intimidate the media from small news sites to giants like Bloomberg and Reuters.

The Kochs and Keystone XL

The article concentrates on a small site called InsideClimateNews. This is what CJR says about InsideClimateNews and Koch’s Canadian holdings

Koch Industries owns an Alberta-based subsidiary called Flint Hills Resources Canada LP, whose website says it is “among Canada’s largest crude oil purchasers, shippers, and exporters.” According to InsideClimate, it “supplies about 250,000 barrels of tar sands oil a day to a heavy oil refinery in Minnesota, also owned by the Koch brothers,” and “operates a crude oil terminal in Hardisty, Alberta, the starting point of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.”

“Although the pipeline, if approved, would increase the supply of oil reaching the U.S., a 2009 market analysis conducted by TransCanada, builder of the pipeline, forecast higher prices,” InsideClimate reported. “The analysis, which TransCanada conducted as part of its Canadian permit application, projected that prices would increase about $3 per barrel as a result of the pipeline,” putting at least a $2 billion in Canadian oil producers’ pockets.

“Given its deep involvement in the Canadian petroleum industry, the Koch brothers’ operation stands to snare some of the windfall,” Sassoon concluded.

Koch owned Flint Hills Resources is intervenor in Northern Gateway Joint Review

Joint Review media analysis Part two: Postmedia and The Great American Energy Conspiracy

In her column in The Calgary Herald, Nov 4, 2011 aimed at making the Northern Gateway Joint Review process quick, efficient  and excluding a lot of  people who want to make oral comments pro-pipeline columnist Deborah Yedlin raises once again what is a big deal for the mostly conservative  Postmedia  columnists.   (See Part One of this analysis:  Calgary Herald columnist advocates curbing free speech on Northern Gateway Hearings)

It could be called ” The Great American Energy Conspiracy,” which has apparently now gone international since a tiny minority of those wishing to  give oral comments to the Northern Gateway Joint Review panel are not only from the United States, but from the United Kingdom and even Germany. Yedlin doesn’t want non-Canadians (at least non-Canadian environmentalists, no mention of oil executives flying up from Houston) to give oral testimony at the Joint Review Panel.

So where does this conspiracy originate? It was uncovered from the research by blogger  Vivian Krause, who has detailed all the contributions made by US-based foundations to support environmental issues in Canada, especially on the bitumen sands, protecting the coastline and salmon farming.

Several  Postmedia columnists, including Yedlin,  go completely ballistic over this issue, quoting Krause as saying, in effect: How dare these foreigners interfere in a Canadian issue
(They don’t actually use the term foreigners)

Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Sea Change Foundation and San Francisco Oak Foundation. She will show you how these organizations have heavily funded the opposition to the oilsands in Canada.

To wit: a tax return filed for 2009 by Sea Change indicates $2 million was given to the Tides Foundation to be used for “promoting awareness and opposition to oilsands.”

(I should note here that Postmedia’s reporters continue with generally fair and accurate coverage of the pipeline issues, although the chain as a whole tends to tilt in favour of the energy  industry)

Yedlin goes on to say

the involvement, nay, interference, by U.S. foundations in the development of Canada’s natural resources constitutes a violation of the North American Free Trade Agreement or of Canadian economic sovereignty.

Were the shoe on the other foot, and Canadian organizations were sending money to U.S. environmental concerns opposing development of, say, shale gas reserves, it’s a good bet steps would be taken in short order to shut it down.


Has the United States taken any steps to stop the millions of dollars Canadian corporations are spreading along Washington’s lobbying central, K Street, not to mention throughout the six western mountain and southern states the Keystone XL pipeline will cross, to  promote that  proposed pipeline?

Is the United States objecting to Ambassador Gary Doer crisscrossing the United States until he will equal George Clooney’s character in Up in the Air, building up frequent flier points  lobbying in favour of the bitumen sands and cross continent pipelines?

Yedlin’s statement is the height of hypocrisy. For conservative columnists in Canada, it is unacceptable for American foundations to support the groups concerned environmental issues and opposing the bitumen sands.  Yet apparently there is nothing wrong for Canadian companies to spend millions of  dollars to lobby the United States on behalf of the Keystone XL pipeline:

The Globe and Mail reported on  Oct. 20, 2011 that

In the past two years, TransCanada Corp. which is seeking to build the $7-billion pipeline, has spent over $1.5-million on U.S. federal lobbyists, and even more in individual states like Nebraska, where opposition has been the most vocal. That’s in addition to the money it has poured into advertising campaigns, which include a current print, TV and online effort in Washington, D.C., aimed at persuading decision makers that the pipeline will help “real Americans.”

TransCanada has been joined by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), which has marshalled the considerable connections of Gordon Giffin and David Wilkins, both former U.S. ambassadors to Canada, to press the case for the pipeline and the Alberta oil sands. The American Petroleum Institute has banded together with the Laborers International Union of North America to feed union workers and ferry them to public meetings, clothe them in orange shirts and ask them to make the case for the pipeline.

Now, of course, the United States is taking some action, with the Inspector General of the State Department investigating possible undue influence by TransCanada, as reported by the Globe and Mail.

The U.S. State Department’s Inspector-General on Monday launched a conflict-of-interest review of the pipeline’s permitting process to examine “the Department of State’s handling of the Environmental Impact Statement and National Interest Determination for TransCanada Corp.’s proposed Keystone XL permit process.”

The Inspector-General review comes after a request by several powerful U.S. senators, who questioned the impartiality of Cardno Entrix, the consultant hired to conduct the Keystone XL permitting process. Cardno Entrix has listed TransCanada as one of its major clients, raising conflict-of-interest concerns.

TransCanada denies any wrong doing and told the Globe

… spokesman James Millar welcomed the Inspector-General’s review “so that these latest claims by professional activists and lawmakers who are adamantly opposed to our pipeline project can be addressed.”

“At TransCanada, we conduct ourselves with integrity and in an open and transparent manner,” he wrote. “We are certain that the conclusion of this review will reflect that.”

Note that the Inspector General is not investigating the money that Canadian corporations and the Canadian government is showering on the United States, but the fact that a company that had worked for TransCanada was reviewing the company’s plans for the State Department.  Is it just “professional activists and lawmakers” who perceive that as a conflict of interest?

In her column Yedlin says one of the foundations Krause has “exposed” has lobbied against Keystone.

Sea Change was apparently a signatory to a letter signed by 251 environmental organizations and sent to the U.S. State Department asking Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to block approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline

Just what is going on here?  Sea Change is, as Krause and Yedlin point out,  an American foundation. Now these two object to an American foundation lobbying the US Secretary of State on the issue of a bitumen sands pipeline crossing United States territory. Huh?

Why? Apparently this is all a giant conspiracy to cripple the Canadian energy economy:

it’s hard not to wonder if some of what is going on vis-a-vis Northern Gateway in particular is a (not so) veiled attempt by the U.S. foundations to ensure there is a wide differential between the continental North American price of oil price and the world price.

After all, low oil prices are better for the U.S. economy than are higher prices and what better way to do this than by cloaking oneself in an environmental cape?

So  American environmental foundations, worried about the effects of a giant oil spill along our mutual coast, are secretly in the pocket of the American energy companies. Quick call Dan Brown and  hire a boat to look for a Da Vinci Code among the petroglyphs along the cliffs of the Inside Passage and rocks on the shores of Douglas Channel.

Then there’s the issue of Chinese investment in the bitumen sands and various pipeline projects. Some of those millions of yuan will surely make their way into the lobbying funds used by Canadian energy companies. Apparently there’s nothing wrong with China having its hand in Canada’s natural resources, as long as they’re sending money to energy companies and not to environmental groups.

No conspiracy, just more hypocrisy.