Report Warns Planned Tar Sands Pipelines a North American Menace

Years of bullying, spills, and environmental destruction documented

12-06-2012 // Tony Iallonardo
Crude Behavior

Inviting an unprecedented expansion of tar sands pipelines in the U.S. and Canada would commit the countries to decades of doing business with companies that have a long record of disregard for the environment, human health and landowner rights, says a new report. The report release comes just a short time before the Obama Administration is slated to make an historic decision on the controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

A tally of the new capacity, over 9,000 miles of pipe, finds the vast majority would be overseen by Canadian pipeline giants TransCanada and Enbridge. The report documents the two companies’ history of bullying landowners, influence peddling, wildlife deaths, oil spills and other bad acts that led the authors to name the report, “Crude Behavior: TransCanada, Enbridge, and the Tar Sand Industry’s Tarnished Legacy.”

While voters in the U.S. just rebuked an unprecedented fossil fuel industry effort to defeat President Barack Obama, who received widespread support from conservationists during his campaign, his administration will face an early test on the direction of its second-term climate and energy policy when it issues a final decision on TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline. Defeated challenger Mitt Romney had promised to approve Keystone XL on his first day in office.

“Politicians cannot be serious about addressing extreme weather and slowing global warming if they ignore the pollution, wildlife, and property rights impacts of Keystone XL,” said Joe Mendelson, National Wildlife Federation’s director of climate and energy policy. “The carbon pollution math simply does not add up.”

According to the report, tar sands carbon emissions could outpace all of the U.S. heat trapping carbon dioxide emissions to date. The totality of proposed new pipelines is projected to carry the equivalent of 930 million metric tons of global warming pollution in North America. Keystone XL alone would account for 156 million metric tons on its own, the equivalent of putting 6 million more cars on the road.

No Tar Sands pipeline
In Canada, where the industry has caused massive environmental harm while wielding tremendous influence with the Albertan and national governments, opposition to massive new projects like the controversial 700 mile “Northern Gateway” is reaching a crescendo.

“Tar sands industry giants have already turned what was once a rich boreal forest into a scarred landscape with thousands of acres of mines, tailings ponds and depleted rivers -- a virtual wasteland,” said Gillian McEachern, deputy campaign director of Environmental Defence (Canada). “Their expansion plans make it clear they think they are just getting started.”

Enbridge’s and TransCanada’s tainted history is fraught with warnings and a dramatic cautionary tale. During its pursuit of a permit for Keystone XL, TransCanada has used the courts to seize farms and private property, ignored Native American rights, and risked polluting the Midwest’s Ogallala aquifer. TransCanada’s Keystone I had 12 spill accidents in its first two years. Enbridge has a poor record as well: In 2010, one of its pipelines leaked a million gallons of tar sands oil into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River, resulting in the largest inland spill in U.S. history and one that is still not cleaned up. Additionally, Enbridge has a record of dodging the rules and failing to notify authorities of accidents.

The report urges --
  • The U.S. State Department to reject permits for new tar sands pipelines and to include climate, wildlife and public health concerns in its permit considerations;
  • States to prevent abuses of eminent domain practices;
  • The federal government to consult with Native American tribes and strengthen monitoring of pipeline safety; and
  • Policy makers to create and maintain incentives to spur less polluting energy sources and to put a price on carbon emissions.

The report is available at For more National Wildlife Federation news, visit