Keystone XL Pipeline Policy Memo

MEMORANDUM

TO: THOM TILLIS, UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM NORTH CAROLINA
FROM: COLIN KNIGHT
DATE: FEBRUARY 4, 2015
SUBJECT: KEYSTONE XL PIPELINE

INTRODUCTION

Both the US Senate and House of Representatives have recently passed the construction plans for the Keystone XL pipeline despite Obama’s veto threat. Assuming that the President follows through on his threat, the bill will soon be vetoed, at which point Congress will have the opportunity to accumulate 67 votes to override the veto.

BACKGROUND

In 2005 the Canadian company TransCanada proposed the project and officially applied for a permit in 2008. The proposed pipeline would run from Alberta, Canada through the US to the Gulf Coast where it would be sold and exported. This pipeline would significantly increase Canada’s oil production, which represents an opportunity to further expand North American independence from foreign oil sources. The process of refining these particular tar sands involves the use of more natural resources and also results in more carbon emissions than the production of typical oil.

PROBLEM ANALYSIS

Climate Change
• The $5.4 billion investment in this pipeline increases dependence on fossil fuels as opposed to investing into more environmentally friendly energy sources.
• Oil produced from the Alberta tar-sands produces 17% more greenhouse gas emissions than an average barrel of crude oil produced in the US.
• The recent drop in oil prices could increase the rate of the production of oil from the tar-sands, increasing greenhouse gas emissions.
Uncertainty of Job Creation
• Senator John Barrasso stated it will create 42,000 jobs, but this number is possibly inflated.
• The overwhelming majority of these jobs are only temporary construction positions and the amount of permanent positions that could be created is likely between 35-50.
• TransCanada has not offered an official number of jobs and the numbers that have been offered to date are speculation.
Chemical Runoff
• To date there has been an inadequate amount of research done on the effect of the chemical runoff of harvesting tar-sands on groundwater quality.
• There is also an inadequate monitoring system in place that checks water quality before and after tar-sand production.
• The waste water containing harmful chemicals like cyanide and ammonia is stored in large pools that can leak and pollute groundwater sources and rivers.

Wildlife Concerns
• The construction of the pipeline will interfere with the habitats of multiple animals, including the sandhill crane.
• In the case of a spill the tar-sands oil would be difficult to clean up, more so than conventional oil, as tar-sands oil sinks as opposed to conventional oil, which floats.
• Cases of fish deformities have been documented as a result of tar-sands oil pollution.

POLICY RECOMMENDATION

The US Senate needs to respect President Obama’s decision to veto the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. I write to you to encourage you to abstain from the vote to override the veto as a commitment to our environment.

POLICY ANALYSIS

Strengths

The decision to veto the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline represents a commitment to the preservation of our atmosphere, groundwater sources, and our wildlife. This decision represents a firm stance on the need to protect our environment and decrease our dependence on fossil fuels in an effort to decrease our greenhouse gas emissions.

Weaknesses

The veto of this bill is a lost opportunity to create a significant amount of temporary construction jobs, while also decreasing our dependence on foreign oil sources.

Opportunities

Your decision to abstain from the override vote signals a strong commitment to the environment and the increased awareness of fossil fuels and the effects of their greenhouse gas emissions, as well as the pollution concerns involved in the refining process.

Threats

The veto will disappoint the North Carolina constituents that support the construction of the pipeline.

CONCLUSION

The construction of the Keystone XL pipeline would create thousands of temporary construction jobs and some permanent positions and increase independence from foreign oil, but at the cost of high levels of greenhouse gas emissions. The pipeline is also a threat to groundwater quality that can be polluted by the runoff of refining chemicals and the habitats of local ecosystems, and increases our dependence on fossil fuels. As mentioned earlier, since oil prices have dropped companies are likely to increase the rate of production of oil to cover costs; therefore, the environmental impact could be even more significant. Your decision to abstain from the veto override represents your commitment to the environment and the preservation of our resources.

Colin Knight

About Colin Knight

I am a junior at Davidson College with a major in political science and a minor in Spanish. In regards to environmental politics, I am specifically interested in renewable energies and sustainable development.

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