This week, Jeremy Symons, Senior Vice President of Conservation and Education at the National Wildlife Federation joined me to discuss the TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline and the impact it will have on us and wildlife.
Candace Rose: What is the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline?
Jeremy Symons: “The Keystone XL Pipeline is a 1700 mile pipeline that TransCanada Canadian company wants to build to carry tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada down to port refineries in Texas. The refineries are actually owned often by other countries like Saudi Arabia and Venezuela as well as some of the big national, international oil companies.
Candace Rose: Why are refining and the sale of dirty tar sands oil so detrimental to the environment?
Jeremy Symons: “Well, they’re destroying boreal forests in order to get at the tar sands. They have to squeeze this oil out of two tons- one barrel of oil out of two tons of tar sands and it takes four barrels of clean water in order to get that one barrel of oil and it leaves behind a big toxic residue and strips mine sites. For once there was forests that essentially the safety net for North America’s wildlife, particularly migratory birds and ducks and song birds that travel north. They see these big toxic lakes, it looks good to them, they land and they die.”
Candace Rose: How are agriculture and natural habitats vulnerable to dirty fuels and oil?
Jeremy Symons: “Well, in addition to the destruction that is happening in the boreal forest and it’s a vast scale. The tar sands footprint could potentially, you could be talking about an area the size of Florida if we developed at all. I got to see it first hand last year and it went as far as the eye can see and it was really disturbing to see. But in addition to what’s happening up there, there’s another problem which is the pipelines that are carrying tar sands are rupturing at a frequent pace. They’re hemorrhaging really all over the country and particularly in Alberta. We had a big spill in Michigan at the Kalamazoo river a year ago that still isn’t cleaned up, it was almost a million gallons. An EPA who has to clean this up says ‘it’s very difficult to clean up, it’s toxic, it’s heavy, it sinks to the bottom’. It’s different than they’ve dealt with so we have another problem which is we have old pipeline standards built for, that were designed for conventional oil and they’re not prepared for this new form of oil that’s shipped around.”
Candace Rose: How far along is the U.S. Department of State permitting process?
Jeremy Symons: “Well, the State Department which is in charge because it crosses a border Canada is the in the process of deciding whether this pipeline is in the national interest. It if is in the national interest they issue a Presidential Permit and that could happen any time as soon as next month. The state department has been lobbied heavily by Canada, they’ve wanted to green light this pipeline from the beginning and we’re asking President Obama to step up and take charge. It’s Presidential Permits; it’s about the future of energy policy, not for us right now. It’s really about pipeline that will be around 30, 40, 50 years and how do we move that compass so we’re pointing towards clean energy resources that don’t run out instead of spending lots of money for dirt that’s dirtying the fuel from Canada.”
Candace Rose: Why has the public opposition to this been unprecedented?
Jeremy Symons: “Well, I think oil companies that are behind this project have really relied time and time again on sliding these projects below the radar and we only notice when things go wrong like with the Yellowstone River spill, the Michigan spill, the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the gulf. This time National Wildlife Federation and others are really working to shine the spotlight on this process when this happens. I mean here’s a bad bet for our future and for our energy and people are starting to pay attention. As soon as they get below the bumper sticker slogans used by the oil companies they realize this is a bad deal for gas prices, it’s a bad deal for environment, it’s a bad deal for energy so they’ve been quite outspoken. Wer had 12,000 people protesting at the White House, they surrounded the White House literally arm to arm and people from all walks of life, not any one political, but people are really tired of the same policies being dictated by oil companies.”
Candace Rose: Do you have any additional information you’d like to share this morning?
Jeremy Symons: “Well, it’s really important that since oil companies want this to fly below the radar that people speak out and they can go to National Wildlife Federation’s website where they get lots of information on tar sands, the impacts on wildlife, it’s impacts on climate age and the potential for damage to our water systems. And they can send a not there to President Obama; clearly a handwritten note would also help; a phone call- but the website is NFW.org.”