KXL Pipeline – Where do you stand?

 I, Tom Kemper, support these 13 reasons
we should not allow the Keystone XL tar sands oil to flow.
(I’ve borrowed much of the following background and facts of which you may or may not be aware, regarding
the Keystone XL (KXL) Pipeline from various sources. I credit those sources at the end of this article.


Where do you stand?

52826f4fb70229534d42a60ffc9ee388In January, President Obama, under pressure from environmental groups and a congressionally-mandated deadline, rejected TransCanada’s permit application to build the KXL pipeline, which would transport up to 1.3 million barrels of oil per day from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf of Mexico. An existing Keystone pipeline has the capacity to transport 590,000 barrels of oil into Illinois and Oklahoma.

Already built along much of the 1,700-mile KXL‘s route, the pipeline would carry diluted bitumen — an acidic crude oil — from Canada’s Alberta tar sands to the Texas Gulf Coast.

Two main concerns are:

  • risk of oil spills along the pipeline, which would traverse highly ecologically-sensitive terrain
  • the extraction of petroleum from tar sands creates far more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional crude production, dramatically increasing greenhouse gases entering our atmosphere

Citing the threat to public health and how the project would hasten the climate crisis, nurses have been on the front line of protests against the KXL, a 1,700-mile pipeline that would transport an additional 830,000 barrels of toxic tar sands oil every day from Alberta to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries. Where are doctors regarding their concerns surrounding this issue?

It is projected that Canada will double its current tar sands production over the next decade to more than 1.8 million barrels a day. That rate of extraction and production will require clear-cutting some 740,000 acres of boreal forest — a natural carbon reservoir and priceless, pristine habitat.

The KXL pipeline would transport toxic tar sands — extracted from the earth below Canada’s Boreal forest — almost 2,000 miles for refining, then exporting. The President’s approval of the KXL would spur increased production of one of the dirtiest, most polluting forms of oil over the coming decades, resulting in an exponential greenhouse gas emissions increase, as well as a dramatic increase in toxins and pollutants further contaminating our air, our water, and our soils.

Tar sands oil is not only difficult, costly and energy-intensive to produce. Tar sands crude is more toxic and more corrosive than conventional oil. Leaks and spills — which will occur — threaten rivers, aquifers and communities along the planned route.

Indigenous peoples in Canada are leading the charge to stop the largest industrial violation on Mother Earth: the Tar Sands Gigaproject. Northern Alberta is the epicenter where more than twenty corporations operate in the tar sands sacrifice zone, with future tar sands development forecast. Cultural heritage, land, ecosystems and human health of First Nation communities are sacrificed for oil money, in what has been termed a ‘slow industrial genocide’. Infrastructure projects linked to the tar sands expansion, such as the KXL pipeline, threaten British Columbia’s First Nation communities as well as American Indian communities in the U.S.

The KXL pipeline is mostly built, even though the pipeline owned by, and being built by, a Canadian company, has never yet been approved by our President, who has the final say in this matter.

38EACD1C-1B76-4024-BC61-EB6D245BCFE0My wife and I have come to know Julia Trigg Crawford, a landowner forced through an unlawful form of eminent domain, to turn over her family’s land for TransCanada to build a pipeline through the Trigg Crawford farm in Paris, Texas. After fighting TransCanada’s forceful possession of her land all the way to the Texas Supreme Court, Julia was recently informed by the highest judicial body in Texas, that she must obey a foreign corporation’s demand to take her land. This type of forceful land taking has never before happened on U.S. soil. This type of court decision has never occurred either. Money, enough money flowing, changes everything.

It is common knowledge that pipelines such as the KXL leak. When they do, they spew huge amounts of toxic oil. That is what scares these landowners most. They live with a fear that none of us should have to face.

I share with you why I stand firmly against this pipeline never being allowed to transport tar sands oil.

Won’t you stand with me, and all those who are paying a huge price at the hands of this unnecessary violation of our planet and it’s occupants?

Reason #1
unlawful possession permitted, allowed if you grease their palms
What precedent are we setting when we allow a foreign corporation to take possession of our private land? What happened to the “property rights” protectors in our Congress? It’s all about money (campaign finance), and, what used to be sacred, now has little or no value when compared to the money that flows like a pipeline, to the Congressional campaigners!TransCanada has intimidated landowners along the KXL pipeline route into signing contractual agreements for their land. TransCanada fraudulently steals land from private citizens through an unlawful eminent domain process.
Reason #2
no way back to 350 (ppm) if it flows
We’ve been informed by the world’s greatest and most respected climate scientists that 350 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide (CO2) in our atmosphere is safe. The current measurement is close to 400 ppm, and we’re witnessing the devastating results in highly destructive weather patterns around the world. What are we doing to our children’s, and their children’s, future?The number 350 means climate safety: to preserve a livable planet, scientists tell us we must reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere from its current level of 400 ppm to below 350 ppm.From *fifteen of the planet’s most highly-renown climate scientists:The tar sands are a huge pool of carbon, one that it does not make sense to exploit. It takes huge amounts of energy and water to extract and refine this resource into usable fuel, and the mining is horribly, environmentally destructive. Adding this to the damage being done by conventional fossil fuels will leave our children and grandchildren a climate system with consequences that are out of their control. It makes no sense to build a pipeline that would dramatically increase exploitation of this resource.When other huge oil fields or coal mines were opened in the past, we knew much less about the damage that the carbon they contained would do to the earth’s climate and its oceans. Now that we know, it’s imperative that we move quickly to alternate forms of energy — and that we leave the tar sands in the ground.
Reason #3
extracting this nasty crude makes no cents
Energy industry economists have looked at all the numbers, and many agree that it takes more energy to extract the tar sands oil from under the boreal forests in Canada, than the energy yielded once the complete production cycle has been accomplished. In other words, it is a net energy loser once the ground has been broken for extraction.The planet’s “public citizen” picks up the tab for all:

  • the violent destruction of ecosystems
  • the loss of habitat
  • loss of water and air quality
  • the decimation of fellow species
  • the compromise of human health
  • the livability of our planet for future generations

while the oil corporations, protected by our elected representatives (whose campaigns were funded by the very same oil corporations), walk away laughing all the way to the bank, knowing they can pocket huge profits on such a scheme that makes no financial sense. Only when the heavy environmental and social costs are borne by “we the taxpayer”, do these type of boondoggles transfer our hard-earned money to these fat cats’ bank accounts.

Reason #4
manufacturers of more cheap goods produced in China will smile all the way to their bank
The oil that is to be pumped from the Canadian tar sands to Port Arthur, Texas refineries is headed to China, so the Chinese can power their infrastructure to make more cheap, throw-away goods for us. We become more and more dependent on cheaply-manufactured goods being produced at wages 1/40th of what would be earned here, and in a country where there are little, or no, environmental protections for clean air, clean water, and natural resource sustainability, much less any concern for human health and safety.
Reason #5
impending spills, their harmful effects on our environment, humans and wildlife
Because the friction created by pushing extremely thick, heavy, crude wears down the inner lining of pipelines, they eventually spill. According to TransCanada’s Keystone 1 pipeline records, it was predicted to spill once every seven years. It spilled 12 times its first year and more than 30 times over its lifetime. The KXL is built to spill, and when it does it will have a devastating impact on employment and the economy, according to Cornell University.The Pipeline Hazardous Material Safety Administration told Congress that pipeline regulations weren’t designed for raw tar sands crude. Regulators had not yet evaluated what measures are necessary to ensure that raw tar sands pipelines could be built and operated safely, and that PHMSA had not been involved in the environmental review of the KXL project.Oil firm Enbridge ignored warning signs for more than five years along its 6B Line. When the 6B Line spilled into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River in July of 2010, it caused the most damaging onshore oil spill in US history. The 6B pipeline transported only 80,000 barrels of oil daily, less than 1/10th of the projected minimum to be transported through the KXL!
Reason #6
are we thinking when it comes to our (children’s) future?
In the last year we’ve witnessed destruction caused by the worst cyclone ever to hit landfall, fueled by sub-surface ocean temperatures 9 degrees above normal; the largest tornado ever recorded; record droughts; and other unprecedented weather anomalies. What will it take to convince naysayers of the obvious results of our continued addiction to the profits generated by, and the economies grown on, our fossil fuels habit?Renown former NASA climate scientist *Dr. James Hanson, who refers to the KXL as “the biggest carbon bomb on the planet,” and dozens of prominent scientists signed a 2013 letter stating “the actual and potential environmental damage (are) sufficiently severe to reject Keystone — to protect climate, human health, and the multiple ecosystems this project threatens.” Hansen has said that if all the carbon stored in the Canadian tar sands is released into the earth’s atmosphere it means “game over” for our planet.In simple terms, a Keystone pipeline pushing tar sands crude would generate the carbon emission equivalent of 40 million more cars or 50 coal-fired power plants every year.We, the human occupants using the earth’s generous abundance of natural resources, must wean ourselves from fossil fuel dependence in the next decade. We simply can’t continue drilling, excavating, and burning every ton of coal, oil, and gas the fossil fuel industry finds. If we continue doing so, the “carbon arithmetic” of CO2 buildup spells disaster, not just for those of us now occupying planet Earth, it also insures an unlivable planet for those as yet unborn.Allowing tar sands crude to flow through the KXL pipeline will keep America addicted to oil — a good deal for Koch Industries, the refiners and suppliers of large volumes of Canadian tar sands oil — a bad deal for Americans. The KXL pipeline would lock in a larger market for higher-priced tar sands oil, which, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency, emits up to 82% more carbon pollution than conventional crude oil.What more evidence is needed to say NO to this disaster in progress?
Reason #7
human health is less important than providing the fuel to fire the furnace for more cheap goods
TransCanada refuses to disclose its lethal mixture of chemical dilutants used in transporting the viscous tar sands oil through its pipeline. The potential to cause grave harm to human health and environmental stability associated with the secret concoction of chemicals is too risky to allow the KXL tar sands crude to flow. Thick, dirty, tar sands oil, with its corrosive properties, pose a far greater hazard than conventional oil – a major reason for National Nurses United (NNU) opposition.According to NNU, toxic contaminants in the massive volume of water needed for extraction are infecting clean water supplies. Towns near Alberta continue experiencing spikes in cancer deaths, renal failure, lupus, and hyperthyroidism. Pipeline spills near Marshall, Michigan and Mayflower, Arkansas have produced respiratory ailments and other adverse human health conditions. Pollutants from tar sands refineries are linked to heart and lung disease, asthma, and cancer.Petcoke — the carbon residue of tar sands refining — standing in piled mounds to be exported for burning, have produced toxic dust storms leaving residents gasping near Detroit, Chicago, and other U.S. cities.Canadian scientists are alarmed at mercury “wafting” into the air from tar sands production. Chronic exposure events are linked to brain damage in humans breathing the mercury-contaminated air.Nurses regularly witness an explosion in the numbers of asthma sufferers, particularly children. More than 40 percent of Americans live in areas heavily-influenced by air pollution with levels of particulate pollution causing higher incidents of heart attacks and premature death.Keystone multiplies carbon emissions and speeds up climate change resulting in more polluted air, while higher air temperatures increase bacteria-related food poisoning, such as salmonella, and animal-borne diseases, like West Nile.The KXL pipeline threatens Texas’ Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer, the drinking water supply for more than 12 million people living in 60 drought-stricken East Texas counties. TransCanada has indicated that up to 700,000 gallons of tar sands crude could leak out of the KXL pipeline without triggering it’s real time leak-detection system. The pipeline’s cross-border section threatens the Ogallala Aquifer, the largest aquifer in western North America, upon which millions of people and agricultural businesses depend for drinking water, irrigation and livestock watering.Today, the tar sands have become a topic of national and international controversy as stories of cancer epidemics in the community of Fort Chipewyan; massive wildlife losses related to toxic contamination; environmental degradation; and increased vocal resistance from impacted communities; have shattered the ‘everything is fine’ myth propagated by the Canadian and Alberta government financial beneficiaries. Already the Athabasca Delta has been completely altered –from a pristine boreal forest, with clean rivers and lakes — to a devastated ecosystem of deforestation, open pit mines, and watershed where fish regularly exhibit tumors and birds landing on contaminated tailings ponds die instantly. Sounds like another West Virginia makeover, as has happened in the last two decades with relentless destruction wreaked by mountaintop mining of coal, in the process known as “mountaintop removal”.
Reason #8
who is for it, who opposes it?
For the KXL: the American Petroleum Institute, managing the tag-team comprised of the oil billionaire Koch Brothers, and other fossil fuel giants. Cheering them on is the far right American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and politicians they influence, no doubt with campaign contributions that flow like tar sands crude.In opposition to the KXL: standing with NNU are every major environmental group, farmers, ranchers and community leaders along the KXL route. First Nations leaders, clergy, Canadian unions, and U.S. transit unions — none, by the way, being what we might refer to as, “well-funded”!
Reason #9
what impact does the KXL pipeline and Tar Sands Oil have on the progression of the installation of solar, wind, and other emissions-lowering forms of energy production?
A policy with scientific integrity and commensurate with the magnitude and urgency of the problem of global climate disruption would call for leaving the tar sands in the ground. If the tar sands crude can find a way to market, the tar sands will be fully developed. If we can’t say no to this dangerous pipeline and it’s highly toxic content, where will we draw the line? If we allow essentially unlimited development of fossil fuel sources, including unconventional sources such as the tar sands, what hope will there be for expediting the necessary phase-out of fossil fuels, and the fundamental transformation to a clean energy system? And what hope would there be for meeting the U.S.’ responsibility to seek the prevention of disastrous climate change?The United States should instead implement a comprehensive oil savings plan and reduce oil consumption by:

  • increasing fuel efficiency standards
  • creating incentives for consumers to purchase hybrid cars
  • creating incentives for consumers to purchase renewable energy
  • creating incentives for consumers to purchase environmentally sustainable biofuels


  • expanding smart growth development models to meet our transportation needs.
Reason #10
jobs, what jobs?
According to the U.S. State Department the pipeline would create 6,500 temporary construction jobs, and leave only “hundreds” of permanent jobs. The same assessment conceded the KXL would support only 35 post-construction jobs. Claims that the pipeline would employ tens or hundreds of thousands of people are not true. A Cornell University study concludes the pipeline would kill more jobs than it creates by reducing investment in the clean energy economy.From NNU: If the threshold issue is jobs, nurses should support the pipeline as a full employment act — in the volume of additional patients sickened by the pipeline’s health hazards and toll from accelerated climate change. Nurses see an inseparable link between environmental justice and the health of our communities and planet. Once again, I ask, why are the medical doctors so silent on this issue?
Reason #11
environmental impact:
The Environmental Impact Statement done on the KXL pipeline was conducted by the State Department, not the EPA. Controversy erupted last fall over Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s ties to a key lobbyist for TransCanada. Paul Elliot was a top Clinton campaign official during her 2008 presidential bid. The EIS found that the pipeline would have minimal impact on the environment, failing to properly analyze direct, indirect and cumulative impacts of the KXL project.The Alberta tar sands are found under a region of Boreal forest and wetlands similar in size to Florida. The bitumen— the unrefined product excavated from tar sands—must either be strip-mined or melted and pumped up after the ground has been heated with steam for several months. Both forms of tar sands extraction fragment and destroy the Boreal forest, killing nesting migratory birds and other species. Toxic waste from the mining operations is stored in vast, man-made dams—called tailings ponds — currently covering more than sixty-five square miles. In addition to the damage caused by the increased tar sands extraction, the pipeline threatens to pollute freshwater supplies in America’s agricultural heartland and increase emissions in already-polluted communities of the Gulf Coast.Tar sands oil threatens our air, water, land, and economy. Tar sands development will increase already dangerously high greenhouse gas emissions. Tar sands oil has no place in the clean energy economy. We must stop this dangerous project.The environmental impacts of tar sands development include:

  • 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 human health in downstream communities.

The recently released State Department’s Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (FSEIS) on the KXL pipeline backpedaled on their earlier claim that the pipeline would have no significant climate impact. The report concluded that KXL could create climate pollution equivalent to nearly six million cars, or eight coal-fired power plants.

Reason #12
the Tar Sands crude will create a glut of oil, making gasoline we need for our cars less expensive at the pump, or, will it?
Contrary to the myth, KXL would contribute little to U.S. energy independence. The oil is headed to Texas ports for a reason – to be shipped overseas. TransCanada balked at a Congressional proposal to condition approval on keeping the refined oil in the U.S., and reports say TransCanada already has contracts to sell much of the oil to foreign buyers. The gas price argument rests on the bump in supply the KXL will bring to market. KXL would deliver around 830,000 barrels a day. Not all of that would be used in the U.S. The pipeline delivers to a tariff-free zone, so there’s financial incentive to export at least some of the oil, because area refineries are primed to produce diesel, for which there’s little stateside demand.The KXL pipeline will drive up gas prices, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Reason #13
The Indigenous Environmental Network has drafted the Mother Earth Accord with traditional treaty councils to oppose the KXL pipeline and preserve the integrity of First Nations and tribal lands across Canada and the Untied States.For more on the Mother Earth Accord, click here.We, the consumers of the toxic tar sands crude and all other forms of fossil fuels, being the occupants of the planet that is paying the heaviest price for our unwillingness to face our addiction, must wean ourselves from fossil fuel dependence in the coming 20-40 years. If we do not break our addiction, we will be responsible for the continued devastation and destruction that will make our only planet, our only human home, unlivable for future generations.

Why save for your kids education? An education won’t matter on a planet where it may not be possible for a human to live.

* the climate scientists who signed the letter to President Obama:

James Hansen Research Scientist
The International Research Institute for Climate and Society
The Earth Institute, Columbia University
Ralph Keeling Director
Scripps CO2 Program Scripps Institution of Oceanography
John Harte Professor of Ecosystem Sciences
University of California
Jason E. Box Professor
Byrd Polar Research Center
John Abraham Associate Professor, School of Engineering
University of St. Thomas
Ken Caldeira Senior Scientist. Department of Global Ecology
Carnegie Institution
Michael MacCracken Chief Scientist for Climate Change Programs
Climate Institute
Michael E. Mann Professor of Meteorology Director, Earth System Science Center
The Pennsylvania State University
James McCarthy Alexander
Professor of Biological Oceanography
Harvard University
Michael Oppenheimer Albert G. Milbank
Professor of Geosciences and International Affairs
Woodrow Wilson School and Department of Geosciences
Princeton University
Raymond T. Pierrehumbert Louis
Professor in the Geophysical Sciences
The University of Chicago
Richard Somerville Distinguished Professor Emeritus and Research Professor
Scripps Institution of Oceanography
George M. Woodwell Founder, Director Emeritus, and Senior Scientist
Woods Hole Research Center
Mauri Pelto Department of Environmental Science
Nichols College
David Archer Professor, Department of Geophysical Sciences
The University of Chicago
Dr. Ted Scambos Lead Scientist, National Snow and Ice Data Center
University of Colorado at Boulder
Terry L. Root Senior Fellow
Stanford University
Alan Robock Professor II Distinguished Professor
Department of Environmental Sciences
Rutgers University

Credits for portions of this blog and sources from which I drew inspiration:



  1. says

    KXL is a fiasco waiting to happen. TransCanada has a long history of environmental destruction caused by failures of their operations that result in severe contamination.

    President Obama has sold us out to oil and gas interests, and he cannot be trusted to protect our environment if he stands to make a buck by selling off or giving away our resources while allowing corporations to pollute.

    But, all is not lost. The high (and increasing) cost of production is far outpacing the market for produced oil and gas. Some operations in Alberta are already folding due to downward economic conditions. Read about the latest results of this situation here:


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