Over the past five years Americans may have taken note that Republicans have never accepted, or acknowledged, the legitimacy of Barack Obama’s presidency and sought every means under the Sun to supersede his Constitutional authority. If they were not blocking the President’s judicial, cabinet, and agency nominees, Republicans have obstructed this President’s agenda; including seeking to sue him for using executive orders nearly every president since George Washington has issued. As the oil industry’s legislative arm, Republicans have went to great lengths to give the Koch brothers, oil exporters, and a foreign corporation a gift that climate scientists say is “game over for Earth’s climate” regardless it is President Obama’s sole purview to approve construction of the KeystoneXL pipeline.
Republicans in Congress have passed laws approving the foreign corporation’s permit to begin construction of KeystoneXL, attempted to attach immediate construction approval to raising the debt limit, and lied copiously about the economic benefits and jobs associated with the pipeline’s construction. President Obama has not given approval for the foreign corporation to begin constructing its dangerous pipeline, but Nebraska Republicans took matters into their own hands and passed a law granting the Republican governor sole authority to approve the pipeline’s construction. Fortunately for Nebraskans fearful of illegal land grabs and the safety of the Ogallala Aquifer, a Nebraska judge ruled that the law, and the governor’s approval, is unconstitutional and effectively put the construction and the route of the entire KeystoneXL pipeline in limbo.
Before 2011, Nebraska gave oil pipeline companies free rein to seize private and public land even if they were foreign companies like TransCanada. In November 2011, the state passed a new law, the Major Oil Pipeline Siting Act, adding requirements for the pipeline approval process that included public hearings, a requirement to establish how a pipeline serves the public interest, and approval reports from a plethora of agencies. However the new law was prohibited from affecting TransCanada’s construction of the Keystone XL pipeline because any legislation that delayed KeystoneXL would be unconstitutional.
The new law’s only requirement was that eminent domain to seize private land could be used if future pipelines were approved by the Nebraska Public Service Commission (PSC). That did not sit well with a Republican state senator. The Republican, Jim Smith, introduced a new law, LB 11161, which allowed pipeline companies to bypass appropriate agencies and approval requirements except for Nebraska’s Department of Environmental Quality that lacked standards or authority to evaluate the pipeline’s impact. LB11161 allowed approval to go straight to the Republican governor, a rabid Keystone booster, to approve KeystoneXL and give TransCanada free rein to seize all private land along the pipeline’s route. The judge hearing the lawsuit against the Republican governor agreed with the plaintiffs and ruled the Republican governor’s route approval was unconstitutional.
It is noteworthy that after Republican state senator Smith’s law was signed by the governor, he received an all-expenses paid trip to see the Alberta Tar Sands courtesy of the Koch brothers and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Within a couple of months Nebraska’s Republican governor approved TransCanada’s new pipeline route and gave the foreign company permission to seize private land and begin constructing KeystoneXL across Nebraska. The three Nebraskans had already received letters from TransCanada informing them they would use imminent domain and seize their land that precipitated the lawsuit against the governor, the “acting” director of the state department of environmental quality, and the state treasurer on grounds the new law was unconstitutional; on February 19 the judge agreed the governor and Republican-dominated legislature overstepped their authority.
Unlike in Nebraska, an oil industry pipeline is already being built between Illinois and Oklahoma due to the oil corporation’s use of a loophole in the law. The corporation, Enbridge, has already amassed a disastrous record of environmentally devastating tar sand leaks. Enbridge is the corporation whose pipeline ruptured in 2010 and dumped 3.3 million litres of tar into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River. The Environmental Protection Agency had to order Canada’s largest pipeline company to return to the river last September to cleanup areas where at least 684,000 litres of tar still remains in the river. Once completed, the Enbridge project carrying tar sand that began construction last fall will cover 589-miles, pass over 1,950 wetlands and waterways, including the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, with an initial capacity of 600,000 barrels per day from Canada, North Dakota¸ and Montana.
According to one of the founders of Tar Sands Free Midwest, Debra Michaud, the alarming aspect of Enbridge’s tar pipeline is the ease and speed by which it was approved using a tactic she and the Sierra Club says allows the oil industry to bypass environmental protection laws to fast-track pipeline projects. Michaud said, “This is one of the most important fossil fuel issues of our time. This is really laying the groundwork for the way they’re going to take over this country with pipelines.” Apparently, Michaud’s concern is not unique. In its current issue, Bloomberg Businessweek says “The Keystone XL pipeline should be an open-and-shut case from a climate perspective. But it’s difficult, even for a president, to take on Big Oil. Obama can only do so if he is given political cover by a large, insistent, popular movement.” That movement, and any concerned American, has until Friday, March 7 to weigh in and express their disgust and outrage that Republicans, the Koch brothers, and a foreign corporation are pushing an oil export pipeline carrying Canadian tar to enrich the oil export industry, the Kochs (between $100-250 billion), and it is “game over for the planet’s climate.”
Although there are several issues Americans should be mortified over with one tar sand pipeline already under construction and one in Nebraska shut down by a judge’s ruling, it is the audacity of Republicans and their oil industry masters to flout the law with veritable impunity. Republicans have allowed a foreign corporation, TransCanada, to seize Americans’ private land under eminent domain, passed a law giving Nebraska’s Republican governor authority to approve construction of KeystoneXL, and ignore environmental laws with no regard for the health and safety of American citizens.
Something is wrong with this country that American citizens have become so timid that they sit idly by while Republicans assist the oil industry to have its way with Americans’ air, water, and health. Americans will never have to worry about a foreign nation seizing their land, poisoning their water supply, or taking control of the government because although Christian extremists and Wall Street pose an existential threat to this country, America is firmly under control of the Koch brothers, ALEC, and their allies in the oil industry. One never thought Americans would allow a foreign corporation serving the interests of the Koch brothers to accumulate unchallenged power over the people that TransCanada and the oil export industry have amassed, but with Republicans providing legislative muscle and American apathy, it was just a matter of time before the oil industry seized controlled of America.