Completion Of Keystone XL Comes As Activists Pressure Obama

TransCanada is pretending the new Gulf Coast Pipeline isn't part of Keystone XL.
By @TrishaMarczakMP |
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    Pipes lay near Swanton, Nebraska ahead of the Keystone XL pipeline construction. (Photo/shannonpatrick17 via Flickr)

    Pipes lay near Swanton, Nebraska ahead of the Keystone XL pipeline construction. (Photo/shannonpatrick17 via Flickr)

    Approval for TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline has not yet been given, but that isn’t stopping the corporation from celebrating the completion of the project’s southern portion, which will provide the company a path to the Gulf Coast and the international market.

    The Gulf Coast Pipeline Project hasn’t been kept secret, but on its website TransCanada does not recognize its connection to the Keystone XL project.

    Despite this, the pipeline is crucial for TransCanada. While it means the completion of a portion of Keystone XL, the pipeline also connects to the company’s existing Keystone pipeline, which already transports Canadian tar sand oil from Alberta to Cushing, Okla.

    The completion of Keystone XL’s final leg comes as environmentalists, farmers and ranchers pressure President Barack Obama to turn down a permit for Keystone XL’s construction. Considering it would travel through international borders, TransCanada needs the nod from the U.S. to cross over.

    Unless it starts from the Gulf and works its way up, which is exactly what it’s doing.

    According to TransCanada’s website, construction on the Gulf Coast Project began in August 2012. Its completion and service date is slated for “mid-to-late 2013.” When it first begins to transport oil, it will have the capacity to handle 700,000 barrels a day and could expand to 830,000.

    “Further work will need to be done before we begin filling the pipeline with crude oil and that work is expected to be completed in the near future as well,” TransCanada Spokesperson Shawn Howard said in an email to Mint Press News. “Commissioning of the pipeline is already underway and is expected to be completed in early November. Line fill can begin shortly thereafter. We remain focused on the project becoming operational near the end of 2013.”

    Keystone’s Gulf Coast pipeline starts in Cushing, Okla., a hub for the U.S. oil pipeline system. The connection to the Gulf Coast refineries is a victory for TransCanada, because Keystone’s XL goal is to transport its oil — more than 800,000 gallons a day from its Alberta tar sands — fields to the Gulf, where it will have access to an international market.

    “The Gulf Coast Pipeline Project is a critical infrastructure project for the energy security of the United States and the American economy,” TransCanada states in its promotional material. “U.S. crude oil production has been growing significantly in Oklahoma, North Dakota, Montana and Texas. Producers do not have access to enough pipeline capacity to move this production to the large refining market along the U.S. Gulf Coast. The Gulf Coast Project will address this constraint, as will the Houston Lateral Project.”

    The Houston Lateral Project pipeline, also part of Keystone XL, provides another access point to Gulf Coast refineries.


    Pretending it isn’t part of Keystone XL

    While TransCanada’s promotional material for the Gulf Coast Project lacks any indication that its part of Keystone XL, it is.

    A map provided on TransCanada’s website relating to Keystone XL indicates that what is now being referred to as the Gulf Coast Project is part of Keystone XL’s overall project. The same goes for the Houston Lateral Project.

    However, while the Keystone XL pipeline project has consistently been referred to as a 1,700-mile pipeline that would extend from Alberta, Canada to Texas’ Gulf Coast, the company is now stating on its website that it is a 1,179-mile pipeline project from Alberta to Nebraska.

    The map now labels only one portion of the pipeline system as “Keystone XL,” with a description of the map indicating Keystone XL connects Alberta to Nebraska.

    It wasn’t always that way.

    “The Gulf Coast Pipeline goes from Cushing, Oklahoma, down to delivery terminals in Texas. This was part of our original Keystone XL application, however, after our original Presidential Permit application was denied, we announced the Gulf Coast Pipeline as a separate project,” Howard told Mint Press News. “The Keystone XL application that is now under review is for a project that will go from Hardisty, Alberta, down to delivery terminals at Steele City, Nebraska.”

    The date at which the permit — and entire project — changed, however, is still not clear, particularly to U.S. lawmakers.

    In March, when a group of Senators were introducing legislation that would strip the president of his authority on the issue, instead handing it to Congress, even the lawmakers themselves were referring to a pipeline that stretched from Alberta to the Gulf.

    “The senators’ bill would approve the 1,700-mile, high-tech project under Congress’s authority enumerated in the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 8,” a press release issued on March 14, 2013 by Republican Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota stated. Hoeven last year secured an opinion from the non-partisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) confirming Congress’s constitutional authority to approve the project.

    As recent as Jan. 10, 2012, TransCanada was referring to the Keystone XL as the entire pipeline — from Alberta to Texas.

    “Construction of the 1,600 mile pipeline is broken down into 17 U.S. pipeline spreads or segments, with 500 workers per spread – that’s 8,500 jobs Keystone XL also needs 30 pump stations worth tens of millions of dollars,” TransCanada stated in a January press release touting the number of jobs Keystone XL would create in the U.S.

    The press release, however, includes a portion at the bottom indicating that all information provided in the press release is based on “forward looking information.”

    “All forward-looking statements reflect TransCanada’s beliefs and assumptions based on information available at the time the statements were made. Readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on this forward-looking information. TransCanada undertakes no obligation to update or revise any forward-looking information except as required by law.”


    Does Keystone XL really matter?

    For the ranchers and farmers of Nebraska, Keystone XL does matter, as it would cross their land. The same goes for Native Americans of South Dakota, who are concerned that pipeline construction would lead to oil spills on their land. The issue of eminent domain is also a concern of Nebraska farmers and ranchers, as they attempt to stop a foreign corporation from seizing the land that delivers their livelihood.

    Yet for those concerned about a pipeline transporting Alberta tar sands oil to the Gulf of Mexico, Keystone XL is not the only battle. According to TransCanada, the completion of the Gulf Coast pipeline provides the route it needs to access the Gulf.

    The Keystone pipeline — not to be confused with Keystone XL — was completed in 2010, creating a pathway from the Alberta tar sands to the U.S. The completion of the Gulf Coast Project provides what TransCanada has always desired: access to international markets through the Gulf Coast.

    According to TransCanada, the original Keystone pipeline runs from Hardisty, Alberta to Manitoba, where it then travels south to cross into North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska. From there, one “arm” of the pipeline crosses to Missouri, while another runs through Illinois — another arm heads straight to Cushing, Okla.

    That project was approved in 2008 by the Bush Administration. Unlike Keystone XL, that project didn’t become a hot button political issue.

    On its website, TransCanada states:

    “TransCanada is meeting the growing demand for energy across North America – and maximizing our pipeline infrastructure – through innovative and strategic pipeline solutions that will transport Canadian crude oil, as well as U.S. domestic crude oil to key U.S. markets in the Midwest and U.S. Gulf Coast.”

    The Keystone pipeline isn’t capable of transporting as much oil as Keystone XL, but it is still significant for the company.

    According to TransCanada’s website, Keystone transports 590,000 barrels per day, compared compared to Keystone XL’s capability of 800,000 barrels per day.

    “The Gulf Coast Pipeline will be part of our larger Keystone Pipeline System that went into commercial operation in 2010. The Keystone system currently delivers oil from Alberta, down to Steele City, Nebraska and then east to delivery terminals at Wood River and Patoka. An additional part of the system also moves oil between Steele City, Nebraska and Cushing, Oklahoma,” spokesperson Howard said.

    While America focusses on the Keystone XL pipeline debate, the completion of the Gulf Coast Project will achieve the means TransCanada seeks. It’s a win for Canada, and a quiet defeat for Americans opposed to the Keystone XL project.

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