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Republican Imposed Budget Cuts Led to Keystone XL Being Deemed Environmentally Sound
An alternative or extrinsic reason for doing something, especially when concealed or when differing from the stated or apparent reason, is an ulterior motive and they are usually the purview of devious operators. America has suffered from Republicans’ hidden agendas for at least a decade, and buried in their persistent attempts to shrink the government under the guise of debt and deficit reduction lies untold damage to departments that are crucial to Americans even if they are unaware of their importance. Last week, the long-awaited State Department report on the environmental impact of building the KeystoneXL pipeline was released and its results are a direct effect of spending cuts, and a Republican ploy.
When funding is cut from important Departments, they prioritize which aspects of their operations must be downsized, and one of the first areas to go is analysis for any number of issues. A proper investigation requires independent research by experts with no stake in the outcome, but a ten-year trend of contracting studies to private groups has led to conflicts of interest when studies are commissioned for lack of Department personnel due to budget cuts. It is no secret Republicans beholden to the oil industry panted for President Obama to give his blessing to the Canadian project, but he was waiting the State Department’s report on whether the pipeline would adversely affect the nation’s air, water, and soil before giving Canada the right to build Keystone across America on its way to the Gulf Coast.
The State Department’s assessment said Keystone was “environmentally sound” and would have no effect on the environment, but the report flies in the face of mountains of empirical data that proves every aspect of gathering, transporting, and refining Canada’s tar sand would decimate the environment. However, it turns out that the State Department did not conduct the assessment because their budget made it more economically feasible to pay private firms to do the research and study. The reason the environmental impact report gave the pipeline a “clean” bill of health was that it was written by two consulting firms paid by the pipeline’s owner, TransCanada. The groups that conducted the studies work for TransCanada, ExxonMobil, BP, and Koch Industries which all own oil sands production facilities and refineries that process heavy Canadian crude oil.
One aspect of the report was whether or not building KeystoneXL would aid in the development of Canadian tar sands, and the conclusion disputed environmentalists’ contention that the pipeline would spur additional production in the oil sands which produce more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional crude oil (23 percent according to a report commissioned by the European Union). In April 2012, during an interview with Rolling Stone, President Obama acknowledged that Canada would exploit the oil in its vast tar sands reserves “regardless of what we do,” so the push by John Boehner, the Kochs, and American refineries makes sense because Canada would rather ship the tar sands across America than endanger its own frontier after TransCanada’s tar sand pipelines’ high frequency of ruptures.
The biased report obviously benefits TransCanada and American oil refineries who will export gas and oil to Europe and South America; American consumers would not see any of the refined oil products. In fact, diesel taken from America’s reserves along the pipeline route will increase farmers’ fuel prices by at least 20-cents a gallon, but Republicans pushing the pipeline never reveal that fact to the public. However, TransCanada, refineries, and tar sand investor John Boehner would see benefits of the pipeline’s construction as would the Koch brothers who already import and refine 25% of oil sands crude reaching the U.S. and stand to profit from an increased flow of tar sands from Canada. It is not surprising a firm working for the Kochs would hand in a favorable report to the State Department in a clear case of conflict of interest, but the real damage is the devastation to not only America’s environment, but the entire planet according to one of the world’s leading climatologists.
NASA scientist James Hansen said that building KeystoneXL will hasten the deleterious effects to the environment including: irreversible effects on biodiversity and the natural environment, reduced water quality, destruction of fragile pristine Boreal forest and associated wetlands, aquatic and watershed mismanagement, habitat fragmentation, habitat loss, disruption to life cycles of endemic wildlife particularly bird and caribou migration, fish deformities and negative impacts on the human health in downstream communities, and that is just from processing raw tar sand before it hits a pipeline. The record of frequent spills inherent in tar sands pipelines threatens the water supply for 20% of America’s prime agriculture land, drinking water for millions of Americans, and the increased CO2 emissions from Canada means “game over for the Earth’s environment” according to Hansen.
The report by oil industry cohorts was soundly criticized by the EPA and environmental groups as “insufficient” and “superficial,” and the good news is there will be a third EPA State Department study conducted and one hopes it is in-house and not commissioned to the oil industry. The State Department study and report did not address the corrosion problem inherent in transporting tar sands and it is the focus of new analysis because when tar sand spills, it is nearly impossible to contain, capture, and clean up. It is one of the reasons Canada is inclined to promote the pipeline across American land to preserve its vast natural resources. Hopefully, the next round of analysis is unbiased and not beholden to TransCanada, Koch Industries, or ExxonMobil. However, with the State Department and EPA budget facing more cuts from Republicans’ sequestration, it is likely any analysis will be conducted by other independent contractors with ties to the oil industry.
Americans are not aware that when Republicans slash government, it is more than just laying off public sector workers, cutting food assistance to the poorest Americans, and slashing health programs for seniors. Most government agencies have been ravaged by Republican cuts and the State Department is not immune, but even a small reduction in funding means that something as critical as a potential environmental disaster will be covered up when the oil industry conducts its own study, and whether Republicans were aware of their budget cutting handiwork or not, with the oil industry and Koch brothers standing to reap the benefits, one cannot help but be suspicious.