On a day when the effort by Trump & Company to overturn the Affordable Care Act in Congress fell apart, I suppose they had to have something to cheer about and shove in the faces of those who care about the environment: the Keystone-XL pipeline has been approved by the State Department.
And in case you’re left wondering who really wears the pants in America now, consider this: the Koch brothers, whose combined wealth of $96 billion makes them the richest people on the planet, vowed this week to pump between $300 and $400 million into the next election cycle – but only to those Republicans who voted against the new health care bill. The others could go begging. Why? According to Charles and David Koch’s Americans for Prosperity group, the proposed change doesn’t do enough to get rid of the Obama-era policies that have resulted in better health coverage for millions more Americans. Seems that our new president’s attempts at arm-twisting to get the bill passed didn’t carry that kind of weight.
However, when it comes to approval of the plan for a 1,700-mile pipeline that would propel an estimated 35 million gallons of dirty oil every single day from Canada’s tar sands some 1,700 miles across our country to refineries in Texas, why, even broader shit-eatin’ grins must cross the Koch brothers’ faces. That’s because they hold close to two million acres in Alberta’s Territory of Tar – more than the combined assets there of rivals ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Conoco.
It’s noteworthy, too, that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson – Exxon’s recently-“retired” CEO, recused himself from the supposed review process of the pipeline project that Trump ordered four days after his inauguration. (The pipeline had been rejected by the Obama administration in 2015 after a massive public outcry). Today, coinciding with the announcement that his State Department signed and issued a presidential permit to start Keystone’s construction, his former company’s lawyers told the Manhattan Supreme Court that they couldn’t find a year’s worth of emails from an alias account that Tillerson used as CEO. These emails were subpoenaed as part of an investigation into whether Exxon intentionally misled the public and their own investors about the impact of climate change. (Hint: They did).
Just in case any astute Assange-ist (or even Kremlin?) hackers are interested, the alias used was “Wayne Tracker.” Wayne is Tillerson’s middle name, and “Tracker” is, well, what big hounds do. The emails are said to be what our top diplomat used to communicate on “a broad range of business-related topics” with folks in his company. The investigation by the New York Attorney General’s office only happened to learn about the email chain earlier this month.
If any of those emails track to the Keystone pipeline, that would prove more than a tad embarrassing to Tracker Tillerson. And well they might, since Exxon was always a big booster of the pipeline project. Maybe we’ll find out, because Judge Barry Ostrager has demanded sworn statements from staff at Exxon in an attempt to figure out why the Tracker’s emails vanished. The judge said the documents must be delivered by March 31.
Meantime, the TransCanada pipeline company now happily says it’s going to drop a $15 billion claim for having been rejected, which it had filed under that pesky NAFTA agreement that the new administration wants to scuttle. (I guess you can have your cake before Trump eats it). TransCanada also intends to drop a lawsuit claiming that Obama’s action was unconstitutional. (Who needs a constitution when things can go better with Koch?)
As for those touted claims about jobs, yes initially there would be a lot of temporary construction workers. But once Keystone gets built, the State Department previously calculated it would employ – hold your breath! – about thirty-five people.
But in states the pipeline would pass through, like Nebraska where there are huge concerns about water contamination, a legal battle among landowners and environmentalists has been ongoing for six years and isn’t about to go away. Native American tribes are gearing up opposition again in South Dakota.
Here’s what climate activist Bill McKibben’s 350.org had to say today: “Every new pipeline, frack well and coal port is being fought and fought hard. You’ve heard of some of these fights, like the Dakota Access pipeline, but there are now hundreds of them across the world. Keystone jumpstarted a whole new phase of the movement to keep fossil fuels in the ground….Six years times 800,000 barrels of oil a day equals a lot of carbon emissions saved.”
McKibben will be one of the presenters at a live strategy session on Monday, March 27th at 8:00 PM EST to hear from movement leaders who’ve defeated Keystone once, and are ready to do it again.
Sign up now to join the live strategy session and we’ll send you a link to watch the live stream. During the webinar, you’ll be able to share your thoughts and submit questions.
The Center for Biological Diversity calls the Keystone decision “a cynical, ugly move that serves no other purpose than to make Trump’s super-rich friends in the oil and gas industry even richer….Keystone will spill — the State Department’s own analysis predicted up to 100 spills and leaks during its lifetime. Since 1986 pipeline accidents have dumped an average of 3 million gallons of toxic oil and other substances into the environment every year, and this pipeline will cross the rivers, streams and wetlands that provide drinking water for millions of people and habitat for thousands of species.”
The Center has established a Trump Resistance Fund to stop the pipeline, which scientist James Hansen says is “game over” for putting the brakes on climate change if it’s allowed to go forward.
Let’s get ready to join the fight, however best we can.