Now that Keystone XL has been delayed, all eyes turn to the west coast – Enbridge Northern Gateway the next tar sands battleground
A big congratulations goes out to protest organizers and all those who have been campaigning against Keystone XL for many months now (if not longer). 350.org founder Bill McKibben deserves particular praise for his tireless efforts. A few days after last week’s protest in D.C. the Obama Administration decided to delay a decision on whether to approve the Keystone pipeline for at least a year. Whether the decision was related to environmental issues, concerns about the proposed route over Nebraska’s Ogallala Aquifer, the incompetence and nepotism of the State Department project evaluation, or some other (political?) consideration, the fact is that the project has been delayed giving opponents more time to organize against the pipeline. Some feel the project may never go ahead as investors are losing confidence and the whole process is simply costing TransCanada, the company that wants to build the pipeline, too much money. I’m not so sure about this. It’s still far too early to claim victory in my view. And if Obama loses next year’s election, it will put the decision in the hands of his Republican opponent. There can be little doubt about how a Mitt Romney or Rick Perry might rule on this issue.
In the meantime, Canada’s Finance Minister Jim Flaherty told Bloomberg News on Friday that “It may mean that we may have to move quickly to ensure that we can export our oil to Asia through British Columbia.” Oh, really? It sure didn’t take long for the Canadian government to throw down the gauntlet. It is safe to assume that the ground will now shift quickly and the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline will soon become the next heated tar sands debate. Opponents such as environmentalists and Aboriginal groups in B.C. would do well to get themselves organized now and be prepared for the war that is sure to be waged by the tar sands industry and the governments of Canada and Alberta on behalf of Northern Gateway. They will not want to lose another fight to get their oil to market.
Still, for now we can celebrate a small victory over Keystone XL. The decision to delay was quite remarkable given the current dismal economic climate in the U.S. and the well-financed campaigns being waged by TransCanada and the Canadian/Albertan governments promising jobs and economic growth should Keystone be approved.
In the end, a collection of environmental and labour groups, Nebraskan residents, a few politicians and a handful of prominent spokespeople have managed to, temporarily at least, derail the $7 billion project. As Bill McKibben wrote in an email soon after the decision was announced, “It’s important to understand how unlikely this victory is. Six months ago, almost no one outside the pipeline route even knew about Keystone. One month ago, a secret poll of “energy insiders” by the National Journal found that “virtually all” expected easy approval of the pipeline by year’s end. As late as last week the CBC reported that Transcanada was moving huge quantities of pipe across the border and seizing land by eminent domain, certain that its permit would be granted. A done deal has come spectacularly undone.”
Soon after the delay was announced, Naomi Klein tweeted that when the campaign against Keystone XL began, “most Americans hadn’t heard of the tar sands, let alone Keystone. This is what 3 months of amazing campaigning can do.” Let’s hope we see the same thing in B.C. when Northern Gateway heats up in 2012.