The Other Keystone: The Alberta Clipper, the Pipeline No One Is Talking About
According to In These Times, while climate activists were celebrating Obama’s November 15, 2015 rejection of the Keystone pipeline, Canadian oil giant Enbridge was already transporting 800,000 barrels of tar sands crude – with State Department approval – along an alternative pipeline network extending from Alberta to Gulf of Mexico refineries.
Enbridge already has State Department approval, granted in 2007, to tranship a maximum of 450,000 barrels a day across the Canadian border via a pipeline known as the Alberta Clipper or Line 67. .
State Department Approves Illegal Switchero
In 2013 Enbridge made application to double Alberta Clipper capacity. When this generated massive public protest, they performed what In These Times describes as an “illegal switchero.”
Instead of relying on Line 67 to transport 800,000 BPD of crude oil across the border, they have been diverting the crude to another existing pipeline called Line 3. This segment transports the oil across the border before it’s ultimately transferred back to Line 67 in Minnesota.
Enbridge describes the project as a “maintenance-driven replacement” of Line 3, which stretches from Edmonton to Superior. As part of this replacement, Enbridge constructed four totally new pipeline interconnections between Line 67 and its new “replacement” Line 3: two at the company’s Gretna, Manitoba station in Canada, and two more in the United States just south of the border.
The State Department ultimately acceded to these changes without requiring new permits or environmental review.
Activists Lose in Court
In November 2014, a coalition of tribal and environmental groups filed suit against the State Department, claiming that it had violated federal preservation and environmental laws and calling for an injunction on the bypass project until it went through the full permitting process. Tar sands oil is the most environmentally damaging form of oil. Enbridge is already responsible for more than 800 pipeline spills, which are linked to major health problems in affected communities.
On December 9, 2015 the federal judge ruled in favor of Enbridge and the State Department, arguing that the State Department’s decision is not subject to judicial review.
Obama’s Gift to Enbridge Stockholders
Ken Rumelt, staff attorney at Vermont Law School’s Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic, says that Enbridge’s endgame has always been clear: even though projects have been proposed piecemeal, they constitute one large network capable of ramping up transport of Canadian tar sands to the Gulf Coast.
Enbridge has a number of other pipeline projects either already in existence or in the works, which form links in this network. When the rest of the Line 3 replacement goes online in 2017, it will open up a new corridor for tar sands oil to flow in through the Upper Midwest.
Then there’s Line 61, a huge, 42-inch pipeline built in 2007 that runs from Superior to Flanagan, Ill, The final links in this tar sands chain have been around for some time. Two pipelines will run nearly 800,000 BPD from Flanagan to Cushing, Oklahoma., where they link up with Enbridge’s 500-mile long Seaway pipeline and its 850,000 BPD capacity “twin.” These pipelines extend all the way to the Gulf Coast.
Two days before Obama’s Keystone rejection, Enbridge announced plans to build import and export facilities at the Gulf of Mexico region. With Congress and President Obama having lifted the United States’ 40-year ban on oil exports in December, Enbridge is now perfectly positioned to export tar sands oil through the Gulf.
Read more here
Photo credit: chesapeakeclimate (Bill McKibben) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (Creative Commons licenses)], via Wikimedia Commons