Protest events seen as ‘new normal’ for Keystone XL opponents

Proponents of the proposed Keystone XL crude oil pipeline said opponents’ increasingly frequent protest events represent a “new normal” in efforts to keep the pipeline from Alberta’s oil sands to US Gulf Coast refineries from being built.

“I think it’s because they’re seeing a higher level of public engagement as more people express their support for this project,” US Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.), a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said during a North American Energy Security Dialogue at the Canadian Embassy on Oct. 23.

“I believe these protests will continue,” said Michael Whatley, executive vice-president of the Consumer Alliance, which co-hosted the event with the Canadian National Petroleum Alliance, Capital Power, and TransCanada Corp., Keystone XL’s sponsor, as well as the embassy.

“The Sierra Club and other environmental organizations say they want to see us quit using fossil fuels,” Whatley said, adding, “I think it will happen eventually, but we’re going to need oil and gas to keep energy affordable and our economy growing until then.”

Richard Neufeld, a Liberal member of Canada’s senate from Peace River, BC, said, “I think these groups help keep our feet to the fire, and there’s value in that. But they’re sometimes not scientifically accurate. I believe we be more active in reaching out to the younger generation because it’s being fed information that’s sometimes questionable.”

Four hours later, officials from the Sierra Club, 350.org, Friends of the Earth, and similar organizations announced they would stage a rally on Oct. 24 outside a Center for American Progress meeting which US Sec. of State John F. Kerry was expected to attend. The US State Department is preparing a final environmental impact statement on Keystone XL’s revised application for a cross-border permit.

Transportation safety

“I hope the high water mark has been reached, and leaders and the public realize that Alberta’s heavy oil will be produced and transported,” said Association of Oil Pipe Lines Pres. Andrew J. Black. “The safety of all crude oil transportation modes has been increasing. Governments on both sides of the border have been working on this.”

Ted Morton, a former Alberta energy minister, said, “Stopping Keystone XL won’t stop production from the oil sands. Approving it won’t materially increase greenhouse gas emissions. The road to North American’s energy future runs through Alberta’s oil sands. A key fact is that no US state would ever have to send its national guard to Alberta.”

Washington Rep. Jeff Morris (D-Anacortes) said his district has two of the state’s four refineries, and they are using more Alberta crude, which arrives by pipeline, as well as Bakken crude, which comes by rail. He said he has urged Gov. Jay Inslee (D) to meet with Alberta Premier Allison Redford and British Columbia Premier Christy Clark to discuss ways to produce more of the region’s natural resources while protecting the environment.

“Vast energy resources in Canada are trying to reach markets,” Morris said. “We’re in the middle of a new industrial revolution without a coherent energy plan. It would be in all our interests for North America to have a good energy strategy.”

US Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) said his district is bigger than South Carolina and includes the Niobrara tight oil field. “A dollar invested there gets you a better return than anywhere else in the country because it’s primarily private land with easier access,” he said. “Weld County, the largest in my district, has no debt because of all the revenue oil production has provided.”

US House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (D-Wash.), meanwhile, noted, “Any growing economy needs energy. When you look at the world’s potential energy resources, fossil fuels are dominant. They’re not going to go away.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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