The environment and climate change are important issues facing all Floridians. The effect of greenhouse gases (GHS) as indicated by the continued rise of carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere is changing how we plan for the future. Our environment and our economy in Florida, as well as the rest of the United States, are tied together so that projects which affect either area negatively should be carefully considered before being undertaken.
The construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline is a project that is opposed by the Democratic Environmental Caucus of Florida because of its negative impact on Florida’s environment, the project’s many negative impacts on the land and people along its route, and because it does not support the United States’ and President Obama’s efforts to move towards sustainable energy sources.
The Keystone XL Pipeline will be a 1,200 mile long pipeline running from Alberta Canada to the Gulf Coast of the United States. The pipeline will carry 830,000 barrels/day of tar sands crude oil, a hazardous material. The Pipeline will cross the US border in Montana, which means it needs a Presidential sign-off before construction can begin.
Supporters of the pipeline point to two main benefits of building the pipeline. First, the pipeline will improve our economy and unemployment situation by providing new jobs. Second, the pipeline will contribute to the United States’ energy security.
In terms of job creation the TransCanada Corporation (builder/owner of the pipeline) says Keystone will provide 20,000 high paying jobs for Americans and $20 billion for the US economy. The Teamsters Union says the pipeline will bring 1,500 Teamster jobs, and 118,000 indirect jobs.
In contrast, the State Department has released data that says the project will create no more than 2,500 to 4,650 temporary direct construction jobs for two years. Claims that 119,000 jobs will be created are based on a biased and flawed study commissioned by TransCanada itself.
Energy Security claims made by supporters include references to Canada being the country of choice for America’s crude oil. They say that increasing Canada’s share of imports will be for “ethical” crude vs. the Persian Gulf crude or the Mexican crude we currently purchase.
What is not said here is the fact that the XL Pipeline is a global project driven by global interests. The pipeline project has attracted investment capital from several oil multinationals including Chinese corporations. In addition, the Port Arthur refinery where the oil will be processed is half-owned by the oil company of Saudi Arabia and the steel for the pipe is being manufactured in India. To describe this project as a Canadian venture and not as a global undertaking by the fossil fuel industry with major ramifications for the price of crude oil globally is misleading. The Keystone oil will originate in Canada, pass through the U.S., and be shipped to the highest foreign bidder, leaving U.S. citizens with all of the risk and none of the benefits of Canadian crude.
Global impacts of the Keystone XL Pipeline include environmental issues that adversely impact Florida. Burning Canadian tar sands crude anywhere in the world will contribute to a rise in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The rising levels of carbon dioxide (now at 400 ppm) and other GHS are contributing to the warming of our oceans, causing sea level rise as well as changing our weather patterns. Rising sea levels lead to beach erosion and ultimately cause salt water intrusion into the Florida Aquifer threatening our fresh water supply.
The pipeline’s planned route also poses a threat to the Ogallala Aquifer. This aquifer is the main supply for fresh water in Nebraska and other upper mid-west states. A leak or spill in the pipeline is more threatening than a conventional spill because the tar sands oil sinks rather that floats on water making it very difficult to clean-up. The TransCanada’s first pipeline proves that this threat is real because it spilled a dozen times in less than a year of operation.
The tar sands are located in the Boreal Forests of Alberta, Canada. Not only is this the home of many different species, the forest and unspoiled bodies of water serve as a buffer against climate change and an important carbon sink. The process of mining for tar sands will destroy huge tracts of pristine forest. An area the size of Florida is slated for extraction.
The forests of Alberta are home to many indigenous populations. The people are being forced off their land and losing their way of life. They have been living downstream from tar sand tailing ponds and as a result, have seen a spike in rare cancers, renal failure, lupus, and hyperthyroidism. In the lakeside village of Fort Chipewyan 100 of the town’s 1,200 residents have died from cancer. Investing in a new pipeline and increasing production would make this situation unbearable for these people.
The indigenous people aren’t the only ones losing land to make way for the pipeline. Along the future path of the pipeline TransCanada is forcing ranchers and farmers to give up 50 foot wide paths across their land by abusing eminent domain laws. Eminent domain laws were designed for special situations in which the good of the nation required people to sacrifice their land at a reasonable cost. They have never been used for individual foreign corporations to take land from Americans. These property owners are going to court to protect their rights.
The question here is: “Why should they be forced to have a pipe go across their land which has a high probability of leaking and contaminating their agricultural and fresh water supplies and risking their health?”
The environmental problems facing Florida today and looking to the future are only further compounded by the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline which would feed more GHS into our atmosphere thereby promoting negative climate changes.
Rather than build the Keystone XL Pipeline, which only adds to our reliance on fossil fuels and does nothing to support a strategy to address climate change, the Democratic Environmental Caucus of Florida endorses the development of sustainable energy resources. Reducing GHS as proposed by President Obama’s new EPA emission regulations and providing tax incentives to the solar and wind industries are smart ways to use our financial resources and will go a long way to preserving our beautiful Florida environment.