Thursday, October 31, 2013

C'mon, man. The fight over Keystone XL is all about enviro-symbolism, not enviro-substance.

     What else can you conclude after reading a study done by the Congressional Research Service ( completed last March that calculates the pipeline would add the miniscule sum of anywhere between 0.06 percent to 0.3 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions per year?  In a long New York Magazine piece by Jonathan Chait that came out this week, Chait contrasts this with what he calls a much more pressing need to reduce emissions via EPA mandates at American power plants that environmentalists say would cut greenhouse gas production by 10% in this country, or about 30 times as much as would be produced by Keystone.
     Yet it's Keystone XL that draws all the attention and the big demonstrations.  I don't recall ever seeing a march on Washington by enviro-activists devoted exclusively to demanding new emission standards for power plants.  In the meantime, plans for running the pipeline through South Dakota and neighboring states remain on hold while the Obama administration continues to grapple with the political elements that are holding up a long overdue final resolution on the pipeline.
     And as this is going on, do we hear a peep about plans to implement new emission standards on power plants?  Not much in the way of enviro-agitation on that front.  On another, probably just as sensitive a matter, enviro-concern is real and needs to be addressed, albeit on a more localized level.  This one is all about accidents, spillage and subsequent contamination.  I attended the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission hearing on Transcanda's proposal for Keystone XL a few years ago and listened to a lot of concerns that were raised and reasonably addressed.  Transcanada's contingencies, safeguards and reaction plans were thoroughly laid out and passed muster with the Commissioners and, I gathered, the affected landowners who would deal directly with the issues.  As to the question about whether tar sands-derived crude oil would make leakage more likely, the National Academy of Sciences, in a report issued last Summer ( says no to that concern.
     So why the delay in reaching a decision?  I think it's obvious that political considerations are holding sway over practical and operational ones.  In the meantime, efforts at making much more significant inroads on gas emissions via stringent power plant regulations aren't getting the attention they merit, lost as they are in the noise over Keystone XL.  South Dakota stands to gain from the pipeline's construction and maintenance, as does the entire country.  I hope our congressional delegation starts pressing the White House for a decision once and for all. 


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  2. I welcome all substantive comments and relish a good debate. Emotional outbursts and veiled and/or overt threats will be summarily deleted.


  4. Very interesting, Mr. Kurtz. I invite readers to go to your link and add to their knowledge and understanding of this matter.