Some Keystone Facts

November 15, 2014 § 2 Comments

Lou Dubose manages a bi-weekly newsletter called The Washington Spectator.  I became aware of it when I met him at the Texas Observer anniversary party in Austin a few weeks ago.  I have become a subscriber.

In his November 11th issue he posted a story about a Canadian company, Enbridge, Inc. .  That company, like TransCanada, is in the tar sands oil business in Calgary Canada.  TransCanada is the owner of the Keystone XL pipeline, the subject of the currently brewing political battle over a 1700 mile right-of-way across the United States to deliver oil to the Gulf Coast for transhipment to other countries.

Here is a link to Dubose’s story:  Spectator.

Dubose’s story is not about TransCanada.  He writes about Enbridge’s clever strategy to evade and avoid opposition from federal authorities.  So far, those maneuvers have been successful.  Here is how Dubose describes the route across the United States:  “The Alberta Clipper [Enbridge’s name for their pipeline] begins in Alberta, crosses the Canadian border, and continues for 327 miles, ending at a tank battery in Superior, Wisconsin. From there, the oil would flow to Cushing, Oklahoma, then to the Gulf Coast for refining and export.”

The State Department has authority to decide whether this kind of transborder pipeline is “in the public interest of the United States”.  Enbridge has cleverly used a permit granted in 1967 to authorize its plan for the Alberta Clipper.  In 1967, tar sands had not become a major source of oil.  Much of the research concerning climate change had not been done.

Alberta Clipper’s path crosses Minnesota.  In 2010, an Enbridge pipeline ruptured and spilled an historic amount of gasoline into a major river in Minnesota.  The resulting damage is still being cleaned up  at a cost of  more than a billion dollars.  The Minnesota Public Utility Commission is understandably concerned about a new. larger Enbridge pipeline crossing the State.  That agency is trying to force Enbridge to agree to some route changes and safety measures.  Meanwhile, plans for the Alberta Clipper are on hold.

The federal government, however, is offering no opposition to Enbridge’s plans.  Dubose quotes a “State Department spokesperson” as follows:  “. . . “In the case of Line 3, the department determined that Enbridge’s proposed replacement of the border segment was consistent with the authorization in the existing presidential permit.”  “Line 3” is a reference to the Alberta Clipper’s crossing route from Canada to the U.S. .

All of which makes me wonder:  Is this like a magician’s trick?  Waving a red scarf to distract the audience’s attention while palming an object to create the illusion of a magical disappearance?   Lou Dubose doesn’t spell it out.  Like a good reporter, Dragnet  style, he offers, “just the facts”.   We have been watching an exciting investigation of the Keystone XL pipeline, still in progress, while the new GOP majority in Congress prepares to force its approval as a show of strong opposition to President Obama.   But what difference does it make if, regardless of the ultimate outcome, only a state agency in Minnesota stands between Enbridge and accomplishing the same objective as TransCanada?  Is the real argument going on in Minnesota?

§ 2 Responses to Some Keystone Facts

  • wisconsincurmudgeon says:


    I think this is about where the Enbridge Pipeline issue stands in MN at the moment.

    MN has two major environmental issues like this at the forefront; the other being the development a mining operation for Copper and Nickle and the possible long term damage from such an operation.

    With the current Fascist government that WI now has in place any needs that Enbridge has around Superior will be approved.



  • danallosso says:

    I certainly wasn’t sufficiently aware of this until I read the Dubose articles. So yeah, maybe they’ve been indulging in a little misdirection. Just what we need in the Mississippi Headwaters: a company that dumped almost a million gallons in the Kalamazoo River through sheer negligence. How do they even get to stay in business?


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