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Green Groups Poised to Block Crude Oil Production from Canada, Even if Obama Administration Reverses Itself on Keystone Pipeline

Even if the Obama Administration reverses course on the Keystone XL pipeline prior to the November elections, there are any number of green pressure groups in circulation that could complicate production efforts.  President Obama recently denied the pipeline’s application to cross between the Canadian-U.S. border.  The pipeline itself would extend from Canada to Texas.

Transcanada, the Canadian firm behind the project, has announced that will move forward with plans to construct the portion of the pipe running from Cushing, Okla., to Port Arthur, Texas. TransCanada has also made it clear that will continue to apply for a federal grant from the U.S. to allow for the section that would cut across the U.S. and Canada.  The company should expect to encounter stiff opposition. The overriding purpose of the pipeline is to transport oil from the tar sands in Canada to the Gulf Coast refineries.

With America’s military fighting terrorists in politically unstable and faraway regions of the world and rogue states like Iran and North Korea building their nuclear arsenals, the benefits here of having a safe, secure and reliable source of oil close to home should be evident.

Green groups are working to turn public opinion in the U.S. and Canada against the production of crude oil extracted from the oil sands in Alberta, Canada. And they are succeeding.

Bill Wilson, President of Americans for Limited Government noted, “It is absurd that Obama and his allies seemingly put every interest above our national security interest.”

The Alberta oil sands (also known as tar sands) occupy an area in the middle of western Canada that is roughly the size of Florida. The oil sands are ideally positioned to meet America’s growing energy needs. Yet green groups, often tiny but determined, have mobilized protests on the state and local levels using pressure tactics that are highly personal and, hence, effective. Their goal is to compel changes in corporate decision-making, sway public opinion, and influence government policies. The groups often coordinate their efforts with the big national and international environmental organizations, but they are careful to maintain their independence which guarantees their freedom of action.

Advocates for the West, for instance, based in Boise, Idaho, has attracted little media attention. But it has proven itself to be a powerful adversary of Alberta oil producers. The group has adopted a shrewd and carefully calibrated legal strategy that has prevented such oil giants as ConocoPhillips and Imperial Oil (an Exxon Mobil affiliate) from sending truckloads of heavy equipment through Idaho and Montana and into Alberta where it will be used to extract crude oil from the oil sands.

The organization has filed suit arguing that when the Idaho Department of Transportation (ITD), which approved the shipment of Conoco oil drums through the state, was in violation its own “10 minute delay rule.” This is a state regulation that says trucks carrying oversized loads of equipment cannot delay traffic by more than ten minutes.

Idaho and Montana transportation officials have expressed confidence that state roads can handle the company’s shipments by making certain modifications, which include constructing additional road pullouts along the route and adjusting power lines. The state’s plans also call for the truck loads to be moved intermittently and only at night so that local and tourist traffic will not be inconvenienced.

The proposed route the trucks will take from the Columbia River port of Lewiston, Idaho goes across 175 miles of Idaho and 335 miles of Montana, and it would alleviate many logistical challenges. But should Advocates for the West prevail in court, the oil companies could be forced to ship their heavy equipment, manufactured in factories in Asia, through the Panama Canal to overland routes accessed from the ports of Houston or New Orleans.

There’s no getting around the impact a negative court ruling against Conoco could have on the economy of the Route 12 region of northern Idaho and northwestern Montana. (The current case only addresses the truckloads from Conoco.)

Industry groups have compiled key facts and figures available on the website DriveOurEconomy.org. They show that transportation on Rte. 12 provides $1.8 billion annually to the area economy and that delaying oversized shipments could cost the region $80 million.

Conoco officials have said the legal delays have already cost the company substantially. Moreover, the company has had difficult time getting its side of the story in the media. That may be because Advocates for the West has successfully drowned out opposing arguments by integrating its legal filings with public petitions and inexpensive YouTube videos, blog posts, and website archives of news stories and interviews. With a staff of ten (five of them lawyers), Advocates for the West has attracted the attention of liberal-leaning philanthropic foundations and benefits from a steady stream of contributions.

A web site called FightingGoliath.org, makes the case for shutting down the connection to Canada. But as it turns out, it is “Goliath” that could use a little help. Between the Obama Administration, and its green allies, the prospects for industry look bleak.

 

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