Live From KXL: Texas- Buried Truth Under Texas Sands.By: Brett Redmayne-Titley
A visit to the Keystone XL pipeline exposes TransCanada Corp.’s continued four year cover-up, factual distortions, coercion, and fraud in the name of profit. This example parallels many other modern sagas of almost complete corporate control over American sovereign government, its courts, police, and will of the people. TransCanada’s corporate influence in building the KXL pipeline will produce from Tar Sands a “Heavy,” unrefined oil. KXL will also produce a certain short term, and long-term, environmental disaster. The first will destroy land, forests, lakes, rivers, wetlands, or wildlife habitat. Due to the massive amount of Tar Sands available, the greater disaster will be the resultant carbon emissions sufficient to terminate the advent of man on earth.
“I Don’t Care For Liars!”
“I don’t care for liars”, says Johnny Jones. Stoutly built, amiable but straight talking, wearing work suspenders, and sporting the kind of tan that only comes from years of hard work under a hot sun Johnny, who is about sixty-five, is taking a break from clearing some trees to talk about his experiences at the hands of TransCanada. Standing on his recently clipped lawn at the front of his home near his separate garage, Johnny tells a story that is very similar to dozens of other landowners in the area. These stories all started out the same.” I was told it KXL was for oil”, he recalled. This was TransCanada’s first myth used on landowners. Tar Sands oils are very different from crude oil.
Johnny spent thirty years working for the city of Frisco, TX as the Municipal Water District Superintendent. Nearing retirement he spent several years looking for just the right property to buy. “Right down here”, he says surveying a shallow depression in his forest with the end of his index finger. “I always wanted my own lake. That’s why I decided on settling here. Now look what I got.” Surely, a one hundred foot wide dirt scar, and a seventeen foot deep trench with a long length of KXL pipe next to it, winds directly through Johnny’s dream lake. Like many East Texans, Johnny had purchased his land, “homesteaded” it, and begun the process of creating a beautiful home and pasture land out of the forest near Winnsboro, Texas.
Seven dogs of all sizes and colors, and no particular breed, patrol Johnny’s pristine, well cut, acreage and utility sheds that surround Johnny’s home, which he built himself. His pristine country home sits on a rise and one can see the surrounding wooded landscape, and hear the late afternoon quiet setting over the wooded hills. But here, for Johnny, there will be no lake.
“TransCanada didn’t tell the truth about one damn thing”, emphasized Jerry Hightower adjusting his baseball cap while tossing a spent cigarette butt to the side, near the others, and spitting. Jerry is seventh generation East Texas. The Hightower name is a fixture in these parts. Thin, wiry, and a little dirty around the eyes from his day of work Jerry is full of southern charm with an ever present grin, is well spoken, knowledgeable on a multiple of topics, and likes to talk. He does not like TransCanada and does not support KXL.
Standing in his Uncle David’s front yard just thirty feet away from another seventeen foot deep trench Jerry adds a similar story of KXL and TransCanada over the past four years, while surveying the brown scar of a trench. The trench can be seen disappearing up a slight hill into the trees to the north and crossing Highway 37, heading south, while winding away out of sight over a rolling meadow.
Perched on wooden “sleepers” next to the gruesome trench is the pipe, the KXL pipe, ready to disappear, out of sight, and mind, below.
Like Johnny’s story, Jerry Hightower tells how TransCanada started four years ago with a letter to all the landowners along the proposed KXL route. Besides telling them that KXL was for oil this letter from TransCanada falsely told these landowners that TransCanada had the authority to seize their property if they did not cooperate by signing an “Easement Agreement” giving TransCanada the right to bring the pipeline through their property. They were told that TransCanada already had federal approval for the KXL project and that TransCanada would take good care of their property and respect their landscaping, orchards, and forests. None of this, at the time was true. But it scared a lot of landowners into submission, without a fight.
A Value Beyond Just Money
Land ownership rights in Texas started with a fight more than 150 years ago and a new landowner’s fight is here. Because of KXL, the proposed pipeline from Alberta, Canada to Pt. Arthur, TX, TransCanada is taking land, incarcerating their neighbors, ruining the lives of their friends, and worse, trampling on their Constitution. Now that the truth about KXL is finally getting out folks around these parts are getting mad. In the rural hard-working farm belt of America, land has always had a value beyond just money. A man’s land is his home, his solitude from the outside world, and his “God damn property.” Taking anybody’s land does not go over well in Texas, or in Wood County
Wood, Tytus, and Franklin counties are rural farmland with hard-working ranchers whose families go forward, and backwards, a generation or more and who call east Texas their home. They are hard-working, straight talking, and opinionated. The sense of community is strong and these kind hearted folks look out for one another. They mind their own business, but hear everything that’s going on. Friendships run long and deep. They believe in their church and their country, and they proudly admit to voting for Romney. But they’ll tell you, “honestly,” it was not much of a choice. They’ve been watching.
“20 years of my uncle’s work… all gone”, points Jerry Hightower at the newly mined dirt trench on the corner of his Uncle David’s property and Hwy 37. “That was my Uncle David’s Muscatine grapevines. He worked on those for years and TransCanada promised to leave them alone. Well…” lighting another cigarette, “they’re gone. TransCanada lied to us then and they’ve been lying to us ever since”.
For landowners who were not tricked by TransCanada’s false statements, or who still did not want to sign the Easement Agreement, TransCanada turned up the heat and the false information. Landowners who did not sign were next visited by Trans Canada reps working in groups, who would show up unannounced, and with check book in hand. They told the landowner about “national security”, that KXL “would only handle crude oil,” , that the “crude oil” was needed, and would be used, for US consumption, and that TransCanada would only be “leasing” a fifty foot wide strip of land through their properties. These first meetings were initially cordial as TransCanada tried to talk the resistance into naming a price to TransCanada’s liking. Some, like “Evelyn,” a local landowner figured, “They were just gonna take our land one way or the other”, and reluctantly signed the Easement Agreement after a meeting or two..
For many landowners their stand against bowing to TransCanada was a matter of principle, even if they did not yet know the truth about KXL. For them TransCanada turned up the heat using threat of using “Eminent Domain” to take their land and pay them nothing. For stubborn owners TransCanada repeatedly appeared unannounced to continue their threats. One tactic was to bring a local resident with them, who was already signed up with TransCanada, to help explain why signing with TransCanada was” in our best interests.”
In the face of the false statements, coercion, and constant pressure most landowners succumbed. For most this meant that TransCanada controlled their property and their future involvement with their land because once construction started, in late June, and the fraud of TransCanada’s statements were exposed, it was practically too late.
“This case is far from over,” said Michael Bishop an affected landowner in Nacogdoches County, TX. Bishop had just, this past Friday Dec. 14, 2012, had a Houston judge overturn a Temporary Restraining Order barring TransCanada from installing KXL on his land. His success had lasted all of forty-eight hours.
Bishop, a libertarian and former Marine, had initially fought the company’s attempt to use Eminent Domain to condemn the land — 20 acres in the town of Douglass, about 160 miles east of Dallas — but eventually relented “under coercion and duress,” he said, because he could not afford his legal fees. Bishop contended pipeline owner TransCanada had misrepresented the purpose of Keystone XL when the company negotiated an agreement with him to build it through his land.
Bishop represented himself, filing suit first against the Texas Railroad Commission, the state agency that oversees pipelines. He alleged that the commission failed to properly investigate the pipeline to protect public health and safety. He followed up with the latest lawsuit against TransCanada.
Unfortunately for the landowners who fell for TransCanada’s fraudulent inducements once they signed the Easement Agreement their fate was sealed. TransCanada knew this and applied as much pressure as possible to get the coveted signatures.
“TransCanada has been open, honest and transparent with Mr. Bishop at all times,” said Shawn Howard, a TransCanada spokesman, in a statement to the Los Angeles Times. Howard added: “Since Mr. Bishop signed his agreement with TransCanada, nothing about the pipeline or the product it will carry has changed. Oil is oil.” Considering the number of landowners who tell a similar story Michael Bishop’s chronology showing that TransCanada defrauded him and other landowners in promising that the Keystone XL pipeline would transport crude oil, not tar sands rings true. Landowner documents from TransCanada also prove this.
“Do The Math.”
Tar sands do not produce conventional crude oil despite TransCanada’s routine protestations to the contrary. Tar Sands contain significantly less potential oil than crude oil taken by drilling. Tar sands are a muddy black tar- like goo containing the lowest grade “Heavy Crude” oil. Because this sludge can be converted to petroleum, and profit, TransCanada would build KXL and further delay the much overdue move to green energy in the face of depleting petroleum reserves. “All the lighter stuff has been used up…we wouldn’t be taking tar sands if it wasn’t economically viable…” notes Dr. Nancy E. Kinner.
“One would not consider tar sands typical crude,” continued Kinner, the University of New Hampshire professor who co-directs the Coastal Response Research Center, a collaboration between the university and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “It’s not considered crude oil by most people who deal with oil and oil spills,” she adds.
Due to America’s continued near sighted reliance on petroleum, despite its terminal supply, corporations like TransCanada have been looking for alternate sources of oil. In central Alberta, Canada, a huge tar sands area was discovered that had not previously been considered commercially profitable. Applying desperation for profit to modern technology TransCanada scientists were able to extract oils from the tar sands and refine them into petroleum. Thanks to this new technology, and one hundred dollar per barrel oil, TransCanada was poised to make a future, long term, fortune.
The tar sands area in Alberta is the size of Florida. Located underneath a pristine old-growth forest, that is being decimated to access the tar sands below, by using massive amounts of heat and steam, and very toxic chemicals, this noxious material can produce very raw unrefined oil. This oil, in theory, can be safely transported, just like crude oil via pipeline, to refineries that will then extract the crude oil and discard the byproducts. What remains can be turned into petroleum.
But Tar Sand oils are not the same as crude oil.
By processing the tar sands from a black peanut butter like sludge to a less viscous, unrefined, “bitumen,” TransCanada intends dilute the bitumen, using chemicals, in order to pump this material through a thirty- six inch diameter pipeline over 1800 miles long. To do so requires, according to TransCanada’s literature, 2200 PSI. This is a lot of pressure considering that conventional liquid crude oil is pushed at approximately 700 PSI.
To prepare the tar sands “bitumen” for transport through the KXL pipeline, TransCanada intends to use unknown “diluent” chemicals corrosive enough, when combined with massive amounts of heat and steam, to extract an oil called” dilbit.” The names of these chemicals have been withheld from the public by TransCanada which has stated that it will only divulge the names of these chemicals should there be a disaster. There has already been a dilbit pipe spill disaster in Marshall, MI.
This toxic cocktail will then have to be refined, hence the need for the KXL pipeline. TransCanada is retrofitting a refinery in Port Arthur, Texas, 1800 miles away, for this purpose. Also, because this is a port large enough for oil tankers to accept the refined dilbit for export.
For the environment, the short term crisis of “bitumen” mining, extraction, transportation and refinement spell disaster for the atmosphere. The carbon emissions, pollution, and overall “carbon footprint” of the extraction process of the “dilbit” in Alberta and, again, at the refinery 1800 miles away in Pt. Arthur are by themselves, applied to the fifty year supply of tar sands, are, by themselves, an ongoing environmental disaster.
In Lake Athabasca Chief Allan Adam, the head of the Fort Chipewyan community in the far north of Alberta, has been fishing here all of his life. His father, now 76 years old, has been fishing there even longer. And neither of them has seen anything like what they pulled from the lake on May 30: two grotesquely deformed, lesion-covered fish. Other area residents have reported similar atrocities. The likely cause; the pollution from the tar sands processors hurling pollution into the rivers and the sky less than one hundred miles away. “The tailing ponds are leaking and leaching into the rivers, and then going downstream to Lake Athabasca,” he concluded. Thanks to TransCanada the potential true causes are not going to be released to the public.
The KXL pipeline and its 150,000plus pieces of 77.2 ft. long pipe is another likely cause of a future environmental disaster of major proportions. TransCanada has already stated that they will not be able to detect a leak unless 900,000 gallons escape the pipe in twenty four hours. With the dilbit being under 2200 psi any small leak will become a massive rupture. Already there has been a major dilbit pipe rupture of more than 1 million gallons in Marshall MI, on July 26, 2010, where a separate pipeline crosses the Kalamazoo River. While most conventional oils float on water, much of the dilbit sank beneath the surface. Submerged oil is significantly harder to clean up than floating oil: A large amount of oil remains in the riverbed near Marshall, and the cleanup is expected to continue through the end of 2012.So far the clean- up cost has exceeded $800 million.
The long-term environmental disaster is much slower, ominous, and quietly directly related to the continued corporate mandated addiction to petroleum power. According to climate scientists the amount of oil, the amount of energy needed to harvest and refine the tar sands, and the resultant environmental damage due to carbon emissions may be enough to deplete the atmosphere of oxygen to levels sufficient to kill some form of life on earth.
Bill McKibben is one of the founders of the environmental group, “350.org”, and one of the first to sound the alarm about Tar Sands, TransCanada and KXL and their collective effect on the future environment. Using the argument, “do the math,” McKibben’s arithmetic shows why carbon emissions, and those generated by KXL are of grave concern. His math indicates that the world can only spew 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere over the next 40 years to limit the rise in global temperature to 2 degrees Celsius, the level beyond which many scientists say would trigger catastrophic climate impacts. Fossil fuel companies, he says, have five times that amount—2,795 gigatons—waiting to be burned in their carbon energy reserves.
McKibben’s numbers certainly reinforce what most objective scientists, and environmental activists acknowledge as truth; that carbon emissions are increasing due to petroleum production and consumption, and climate change and Global Warming are, indeed, the result. Mining and processing oil sands crude carries a twenty percent larger carbon footprint, than conventional crude oil, across the entire chain of production. Most estimates are that the Alberta tar sands amount to as much as twenty percent of remaining world supply.
The side effects of tar sands processing and refining are being covered up by TransCanada which is providing very little information. With a staggering amount of tar sands profit to be had TransCanada is not letting short, or long-term, environmental issues, or disasters, get in the way. Similar to “fracking,” facts and evidence are branded as “activist” distortions to a quest for short-term TransCanada profit, that has complete disregard for long-term public health or safety.
“I Don’t Care What They Say… All Pipes Leak!”
Johnny Jones was in charge of the Frisco City Municipal Water District for almost thirty years. He knows pipes. Texas is “awash in pipes of all types and sizes”, he says. Gas pipes, water pipes, sewer lines, and petroleum lines, run everywhere in Texas. After all, this is oil country. All pipes have one thing in common, says Johnny, “all pipes leak.”
This is a major, factual, concern for environmentalists and activists. 2200 PSI is sufficient pressure to actually cut steel like a knife and close to the pressure inside a SCUBA tank. Should there be a leak it will quickly become a rupture. TransCanada admits it will only be able to detect leaks in excess of 900,000 gallons a day. The massive pressure applied to a 36 inch diameter pipe equal a potentially catastrophic dilbit blowout. Marshall, MI, is still cleaning from theirs.
Tar Sands of not been sent this far via pipe. If completed, KXL will span over 1800 miles, from multiple locations in Alberta, to Houston and Port Arthur, Texas. Along the proposed route are hundreds of lakes, rivers, streams, subterranean aqueducts, wetlands, wild life habitats, and pristine forest. TransCanada’s answer to this is to bury all evidence of a leak seventeen feet below the surface using modern pipe laying technology. One TransCanada engineer admitted that they were not pressure testing the pipelines until many sections that were many miles long, and had already been buried under Texas clay.
The make- up of the dilbit oil is not the same as crude oil. Aside from containing the unknown corrosive chemical diluents this oil is very abrasive on the inside of the pipe since it continues to hold the course and sandy dilbit material. With pressure applied to this mixture it becomes more abrasive. Constant abrasion of sand on metal will weaken and thin the pipeline walls over time. With the “diluent” chemicals remaining secret, these may accelerate the deterioration of the pipeline interior as well.
The structural integrity of the pipe is vital. At 2200 psi any leak will become an environmental disaster area. Considering these concerns it would be assumed TransCanada would get a type of pipe technically adequate for the high pressures required. Not so. Again, TransCanada lied.
In two weeks spent in the Winnsboro, TX area it became increasingly clear that TransCanada was quite deliberately covering up the facts related to many critical issues.( TransCanada did not respond to requests for an interview.) Many are issues related to safety and environmental damage. The influence shown by TransCanada gives pause for as much careful examination in other areas of local, state, federal corporate control. KXL could not have come this far without having friends in all the right places.
NEXT: Part Two: The Pipe…..“Made in USA” ???
The Cops… “Bad Cops In Black T-Shirts.”
The Jobs… “I Could Get Fired For Talking To You.”
The Plot…. “A Presidential Trump Card.”