Work starts in Montana on disputed Canada-US oil pipeline

Well, not much changes when it comes to pipelines and BIG OIL, as we see the infamous Keystone XL oil sands pipeline owned by TC Energy Corporation (formerly Trans Canada Corporation) has now commenced its construction of Phase Four, even before obtaining its final permit.

This pipeline runs from Hardisty, Alberta  to tiny Steele City, Nebraska, (pop. 61) from where the oil will head east to Illinois and south to Oklahoma.

Continuing the theme of “not much changes” TC Energy claims that they operate “…safely, reliably, and with minimum impact on the environment,” and they tout their awards and paint a picture of being overall good guys.

The facts (source Wikipedia) show differently:  in 2011 this oil company invoked 56 eminent domain actions with landowners who refused to allow the pipeline on their land.  They employed the threat of brute force from 2014 – 2017 when they hired armed State of Maryland Transit Police and Baltimore City police and they occupied by force dozens of private properties during their MB natural gas construction.

As with other BIG OIL companies, they have had the inevitable spills and leaks.  Just as phosphate mines  have “accidents,”  pipelines  have spills.  TC Energy has had three major ones since 2010 and have lied about it, reporting roughly half the size of the actual spill.

Your historian has a special interest in this latest needless threat to our environment, as he grew up near the unique and now-threatened Nebraska Sandhills, largest sand dunes complex in the Western Hemisphere, and the largest and most intricate wetland ecosystem in the United States, according to Wikipedia.  It sits atop an unconfined area of the huge Ogallala Aquifer with many small shallow lakes and wetlands, nesting area for many waterfowl and from where the sandhill crane gets its name.

Photo Wikipedia

Due to its uniqueness and the various protections covering the region (World Wide Fund Ecoregion, Valentine National Wildlife Refuge,   Crescent Lake National Wildlife Refuge The Nature Conservancy’s Niobrara Valley Preserve, Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge , and others) a special permit was requested:

Project Presidential Permit Review Process, announced that the U. S. State Department would assess TransCanada Keystone XL Project (Hardisty-Baker-Steele City) proposal. “[G]iven 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 […] The comments were consistent with the information in the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) about the unique combination of characteristics in the Sand Hills (which includes a high concentration of wetlands of special concern, a sensitive ecosystem, and extensive areas of very shallow groundwater) and provided additional context and information about those characteristics. 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.” [13]

On November 3, 2015, the request for a Presidential Permit was denied.[14]

The Nebraska Supreme Court approved the pipeline as did Nebraska Public Service Commission.   Obama approved segments and vetoed others.  His last action was a veto, but overridden by Trump soon after his election.

As we wrote,  not much changes.

Read the entire article here in pbs.org.

Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
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– A river is like a life: once taken,
it cannot be brought back © Jim Tatum

Work starts in Montana on disputed Canada-US oil pipeline

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A Canadian company said Monday that it’s started construction on the long-stalled Keystone XL oil sands pipeline across the U.S.-Canada border despite calls from tribal leaders and environmentalists to delay the $8 billion project amid the coronavirus pandemic.

A spokesman for TC Energy said work began over the weekend at the border crossing in northern Montana, a remote area with sprawling cattle ranches and wheat fields. About 100 workers are involved initially, but that number is expected to swell into the thousands in coming months as work proceeds, according to the company.

The 1,200 mile (1,930 kilometer) pipeline was proposed in 2008 and would carry up to 830,000 barrels (35 million gallons) of crude daily for transfer to refineries and export terminals on the Gulf of Mexico.

It’s been tied up for years in legal battles and several court challenges are still pending, including one that’s due before a judge next week.

TC Energy’s surprise announcement last week that it intended to start construction came after the provincial government in Alberta invested $1.1 billion to jump start work. Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality on Friday issued the final state permits the company needed, agency spokeswoman Rebecca Harbage said.

Leaders of American Indian tribes and some residents of rural communities along the pipeline route worry that workers could spread the coronavirus. As many as 11 construction camps, some housing up to 1,000 people, were initially planned for the project, although TC Energy says those are under review because of the virus.

TC Energy says it plans to check everyone entering work sites for fever and ensure workers practice social distancing.

Opponents in January had asked Morris to block any work while the legal challenges are pending. They said clearing and tree felling along the route would destroy bird and wildlife habitat. Native American tribes along the pipeline route have said the pipeline could break and spill oil into waterways like the Missouri River.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

A hearing on the request to block work is scheduled for April 16 before U.S. District Judge Brian Morris in Great Falls….

Stephan Volker, an attorney for the environmental groups asking Morris to again intervene, said the company’s decision to “jump the gun” before next week’s hearing was an insult to the judge.

Photo Wikipedia