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Friday, January 18, 2013

2 Reports on Canadian Oil/Tar Sands (TransCanada's Keystone XL) Paint a Dire Picture

by JOHN M. BRODER, The New York Times, January 17, 2013

The capacity to produce petcoke in American refineries has doubled since 1999, largely because of the ongoing boom in Canadian oil sands production.Oil Change International; data from Energy Information AdministrationThe capacity to produce petcoke in American refineries has doubled since 1999, largely because of the ongoing boom in Canadian oil sands production.

Opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline and the heavy Canadian crude oil that it would carry released two reports on Thursday asserting that the environmental impacts of the project are worse than previously estimated, and urged the Obama administration to veto it.

One report, from the anti-petroleum group Oil Change International, finds that existing studies of emissions from mining, transporting and refining the oil from oil sands (tar sands) formations in Alberta fails to account for the impact of petroleum coke, or petcoke. The study states that because petcoke is considered a refinery byproduct, its emissions are not included in calculation of the climate impact of exploiting Canadian oil sands.
The study says that the petcoke produced from oil moving through the 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline would be equivalent to the coal burned at five conventional power plants.
The second study, from the Canadian environmental research group Pembina, says that construction of the pipeline would bring rapid expansion of tar sands mining and greatly increase overall greenhouse gas emissions.

“Filling the Keystone XL pipeline with oils and crude will create significant greenhouse gases regardless of whether other transport options move forward,” said Nathan Lemphers, a researcher at Pembina. “Because Canada does not have a credible plan for responsibly developing the oil sands, including reducing emissions so Canada can meet its climate commitments, the pipeline should not go ahead.”
Shawn Howard, a spokesman for TransCanada, the pipeline operator, said that opponents were rehearsing tired and discredited arguments against the oil sands and the pipeline.
“This is the latest attempt by professional activists who oppose Keystone XL to change the discussion – there is nothing new in this document,” Mr. Howard said in an e-mailed statement. “The real issue is whether or not the proposed Keystone XL pipeline meets the regulatory standards to be granted a presidential permit for crossing an international border.”
“In our view it not only meets America’s standards, it exceeds them based on the additional design, safety and operating measures that TransCanada has agreed to adopt,” he said. But let’s be frank: this is not about the Keystone XL pipeline, diluted bitumen, emissions or a substance that is in a particular blend of oil.”
He continued: “More than four years of environmental reviews have already concluded that Keystone XL would have no material impact on environmental resources along the entire pipeline route. This was also confirmed very recently when the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality released its report on the revised route in that state. Regardless of the materials that are in oil when it comes out of the earth, emissions are accounted for by the producers and refiners.”
Other supporters of the pipeline also weighed in on Thursday. Brad Wall, the premier of Saskatchewan, and 10 United States governors sent a letter to President Obama asking him to approve the project. They said it would create thousands of jobs and supplant millions of barrels of oil imports from the Persian Gulf and other sources.
Notably absent among the signers was David E. Heineman, the Republican governor of Nebraska, where opposition to the proposed pipeline route is strongest because it would cross some sensitive lands and aquifers. Mr. Heineman is now weighing a state environmental impact statement and is expected to announce his position on the pipeline in coming weeks.
The Obama administration has promised a decision by the end of March, but officials have recently suggested that time line may slip.

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