Posts Tagged ‘TransCanada’

Coast Guard Documents Fourth Keystone Leak

Posted: Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 8:22 am
By: Cory Allen Heidelberger
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Check that: it’s apparently not the pipeline we have to worry about; it’s those darn leaky pump stations.

Carrie La Seur of Plains Justice gets the scoop on the fourth documented leak along TransCanada’s Keystone I tar sands pipeline. According to incident report #951480 filed by the U.S. Coast Guard’s National Response Center, Keystone Pump Station 24 near Hartington, Nebraska, sprang a leak. The report says, “caller stated a check valve on a pressure transmitter located on the suction side of a line pump stuck open releasing 5-10 gallons of crude oil onto the ground.

The leaks must be working their way south. Check out TransCanada’s Keystone system map:

Map of Keystone I Pump Station leaks, May-Aug 2010
Map of Documented Keystone I Pipeline Pump Station Leaks
May–August 2010 (click image to enlarge)

The previous three Keystone leaks happened at the Carpenter Pump Station in Beadle County in May, then the Roswell Pump Station in Miner County in June, then the Freeman Pump Station on August 10. Was the pipeline passing a stone or something?

Once again, let us review TransCanada’s June 2006 pipeline risk assessment:

…the estimated occurrence intervals for a spill of 50 barrels or less occurring anywhere along the entire pipeline system is once every 65 years, a spill between 50 and 1,000 barrels might occur once in 12 years; a spill of 1,000 and 10,000 barrels might occur once in 39 years; and a spill containing more than 10,000 barrels might occur once in 50 years. Applying these statistics to a 1-mile section, the chances of a larger spill (greater than 10,000 barrels) would be less than once every 67,000 years [ENSR Corporation for TransCanada, “Pipeline Risk Assessment and Environmental Consequence Analysis,” Document No. 10623-004, June 2006].

Given four incidents in three months, we are now in the clear on small leaks for 260 years. Thanks for getting those out of the way, TransCanada!

TransCanada Notes: Nebraska Regs, SD Pipe Yards, Maine Wind

Posted: Thursday, November 18, 2010 at 8:32 am
By: Cory Allen Heidelberger
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At least some Nebraska counties are taking action to keep TransCanada in line if it builds the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline through their territory. In York County (down where US 81 meets I-80), corn producers are asking the county commission to regulate the construction timeframe, pipeline depth, and pipeline reclamation to protect local agriculture. Holt County in north central Nebraska has already passed some significant pipeline regulations in anticipation of Keystone XL.

Meanwhile, TransCanada keeps trying to force landowners into silence about the project, something one Ernie Fellows of Keya Paha County doesn’t much care for:

Fellows, a Keya Paha county landowner who lives near Mills, said he believes the company’s tactics and closed meetings with Landowners for Fairness (LFF) violate his rights.

“I belong to LFF. I have the right to say no. I have the right to speak. Having to sign a nondisclosure statement violates my civil rights,” he said [LuAnn Schindler, “Proposed Pipeline Has Some Property Owners Asking Questions,” Norfolk Daily News, 2010.10.26].

Meanwhile, TransCanada is still getting its Keystone XL ducks in a row here in South Dakota. TransCanada rep Michael Calhoun checked with Butte County commissioners last week to make sure his company had the right permits for a pipe yard that mostly out-of-state workers will use as a staging ground for construction of the pipeline. Butte County has no zoning regulations, so TransCanada is good to go…

…assuming, of course, that the State Department approves TransCanada’s permit request. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made some pro-Keystone XL noise last month, which earned her guff from both of Nebraska’s U.S. Senators and some other folks… but no word that I’ve heard from South Dakota’s Congressional delegation.

On the bright side, even as TransCanada threatens to profit from prolonging our addiction to dirty foreign oil, the Canadian company is also boosting wind power here in the States. At the beginning of the month, TransCanada finished construction on the 132-megawatt Kibby Wind project in Eustis, Maine. When those windmills are at full tilt, they’ll provide enough juice for 50,000 homes.

Dang it: even those land-grabbing Canadian fossil-fuel peddlers can do something right every now and then.

Tar Sands Bad for Ducks and Roads

Posted: Monday, November 1, 2010 at 7:29 am
By: Cory Allen Heidelberger
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If you still aren’t mad at TransCanada for slurping up $10.5 million in tax refunds that South Dakota could have used to fund education and roads (see Rep. Mitch Fargen’s duly indignant comments at the Madison Chamber forum last week), how about getting mad at them for poaching ducks?

Well, I suppose it’s not poaching, and it’s not TransCanada directly, but they are part of tar sands industry that is killing ducks without a hunting license, ducks that you and your law-abiding, South Dakota license-holding pals could joyfully and legally blast from the sky. Reports Plains Justice:

Just a week after paying a CAN$3 million fine for the deaths of 1600 ducks that landed on its tailing ponds in 2008, Canada tar sands extractor Syncrude had to euthanize 230 ducks that landed on its tar sands tailing ponds this week (there was good coverage of the story out of Calgary). To look at their website, you’d think Syncrude was an environmental organization, but they’ve been unable to resolve the lethal combination of highly toxic tailings ponds and a huge migratory waterfowl corridor. In spite of reassurances from industry and the Canadian government that the 2008 event was a mistake that would never happen again, here we are [Carrie La Seur, “230 More Ducks Dead in Tar Sands Tailing Ponds,” Plains Justice Today, 2010.10.28].

TransCanada is more directly responsible for some road wreckage here on the Great Plains. Just as has been the case in South Dakota, Kansas officials and residents are struggling with road damage caused by construction last year of TransCanada’s Keystone pipeline.

So thanks to our addiction to foreign oil, you’ll have fewer ducks to shoot and you’ll burn more gas trying to get to those ducks as you detour around wrecked roads on TransCanada’s pipeline route.

Dist.8: Olson-Bjorklund TransCanada Ticket

Posted: Monday, October 18, 2010 at 6:56 am
By: Cory Allen Heidelberger
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Fargen, Lange, Schmidtke, Stricherz Recognize Oil Tax Breaks Wrong

KJAM asked our District 8 House and Senate candidates what they think of the millions of dollars South Dakota gave away to TransCanada this year as an incentive for building the Keystone pipeline (second question on each interview, minute or two in). The answers are instructive about who’s looking out for South Dakota and who’s making excuses for Big Oil.

Republican Senator Russell Olson offers no surprises with his passionate advocacy for Big Oil, saying the tax refund was “absolutely” good. He hews closely to the company line (TransCanada’s and his boss’s at Heartland Consumer Power District), telling us the Keystone I pipeline was an $800-million stimulus for South Dakota.* TransCanada is now the biggest property tax payer in the state, says Olson, pumping more money into school and county budgets than any other industry could. Every barrel of oil from TransCanada, says Olson, is one less barrel from petrodictators like Hugo Chavez. And TransCanada got $30 million less in refunds from Pierre than they originally projected. Olson says TransCanada has brought our state a “phenomenal amount of money,” and the “economic benefit certainly outweighs the one-time $10 million rift that everybody is so worked up about.”

That’s a strong answer. Too bad it misses the point. Olson’s Independent Democratic challenger Clark Schmidtke points out that we didn’t need to hand out that $10 million in the first place. Both Schmidtke and incumbent Democratic House candidate Rep. Mitch Fargen note that neither North Dakota nor Nebraska offered such cushy tax breaks to TransCanada. If Russ’s analysis of local benefits from the pipelines is correct (and I question even that), North Dakota and Nebraska got similar benefits for free. We could have gotten the same benefits and still kept that $10 million for education or health care or other local priorities, just as North Dakota and Nebraska did. Oops.

Schmidtke does answer the broader question about state incentives in general for economic development by saying he can support applying and even expanding these tax refunds to ethanol companies, since ethanol does more direct good for South Dakota farmers and workers. Fargen adds that the refund program TransCanada exploited was developed to support South Dakota’s ethanol, soy diesel, and wind energy companies. He and Schmidtke agree that TransCanada’s refund was a giveaway that produced few jobs for South Dakotans.

Posed the same question, incumbent Democratic candidate for House Rep. Gerry Lange doesn’t hesitate to brand the TransCanada giveaway a bad idea. Lange recognizes the value of this tax incentive for the local energy projects for which it was originally intended, like the soy diesel plant. But that contractors’ excise tax that we refunded to TransCanada is the same tax that hits school districts and counties when they build public improvements. Why, asks Lange, hit South Dakota taxpayers with that expense for building schools and roads and bridges, then turn around and give back millions to a foreign company for building a pipeline (which I will note gets no public use)?

Republican House candidate Patricia Stricherz (who, yes, is currently a paying advertiser here on the Madville Times) is just as forceful and unhesitant as Lange in saying the TransCanada tax refunds were “Absolutely not” a good idea. She notes that TransCanada has already had leaks in South Dakota and says companies that want to come here should have to prove themselves worthy.

So where does that leave Independent/9-12 candidate for House Jason Bjorklund? Let’s read the transcript of his response to the question:

Admittedly I’m not entirely up on TransCanada. I haven’t been in the Legislature obvioulsy, so I’m not privy to all the information they’ve had, but as far I understand this is a done deal and at this point there’s nothing we can do about it. Do I think this is best way to bring buinsesses and jobs to South Dakota? No, not necessarily. We need to look at ways to encourage businesses to come here without spending the… limited resources that we have. Now this TransCanada thing it appears to be a done deal, they’ve got the money, there’s nothing we can do at this point but sit back and look at the numbers how many jobs did it create in the state, was this a good move for us to do, and keep that in mind as we make future decisions [Jason Bjorklund, interview with Lauri Struve, KJAM Radio, 2010.10.13].

Here Bjorklund has a golden opporunity to put his 9-12 Project principles into action. He could rail against wasteful government spending and crony capitalism. He could show that he can translate the slogans he gets from national talk radio into real solutions that put South Dakotans first. Instead, he hems and haws and provides more cover for the Republican regime in Pierre than the declared Republican on the House ballot offers. Not necessarily… it’s over and done… there’s nothing we can do about it….

Bull-roar. A legislator not beholden to the GOP or Big Oil could do lots about it. He could declare it bad policy and a waste of money, as Schmidtke and Fargen do. He could point to other priorities where the money would be better spent, as Lange does. He could highlight the dangers posed by the pipeline, as Stricherz does. He could look ahead and vow to repeal the refund for the Keystone XL pipeline and recoup the money with a pennies-per-barrel pipeline tax (a good idea that Senator Russ Olson killed this year).

Schmidtke, Fargen, Lange, and even Stricherz are making clear that, on this issue, they recognize that we should put South Dakotans ahead of foreign oil corporations. Olson is proving once again that he’s in the pocket of Big Oil. Bjorklund is hinting that he’s more interested in covering for the mistakes and corporate giveaways of the Republican machine in Pierre than in challenging the powers that be and sticking up for average South Dakotans.

Olson-Bjorklund: The TransCanada Ticket

*So if Kristi Noem can look at South Dakota’s current economic situation and say the federal stimulus failed, can we say Olson’s imputed “TransCanada stimulus” also failed?

Opposition Rising to Keystone XL Threats to Land, Water, and Rights

Posted: Thursday, September 30, 2010 at 7:36 pm
By: Cory Allen Heidelberger
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Our friends at Plains Justice put up some useful information on the proposed TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline:

  1. First, Plains Justice lists the chemical cocktail TransCanada wants to run under our farmland and across our aquifers. And TransCanada has the gall to say the risk is theirs, not the landowners’.
  2. Plains Justice also links to a new online documentary from the Center for Energy Matters. The video shows Oklahomans and Texans who are disgusted by tar sands, eminent domain, shady business, and TransCanada’s threat to clean water.
  3. If you’re on the Keystone XL route and TransCanada’s land agents are trying to push you around, Plains Justice points to a website that may help. has set up a hotline to take reports on TransCanada’s heavy-handed land-grab tactics and other abuses of landowner rights. Don’t let TransCanada give you the shaft: call at 1-866-363-4648 and stand up to foreign oil!

TransCanada, Nebraska Law Unfair to Landowners

Posted: Saturday, August 28, 2010 at 7:31 am
By: Cory Allen Heidelberger
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Here’s one more small way in which the eminent domain with which TransCanada threatens landowners is wholly unfair. Mother Jones posts a redacted PDF version of a letter TransCanada sent to a Central City, Nebraska, landowner making the final dollar offer for easements for the Keystone XL pipeline. We don’t get to see the dollar figure… and neither will the judge if TransCanada goes to court to seize the land. Writes TransCanada’s senior land robber baron Tim M. Irons:

While we hope to acquire this property through negotiation, if we are unable to do so, we will be forced to invoke the power of eminent domain and will initiate condemnation proceedings against this property promptly after the expiration of this one month period. In the event that we are forced to invoke the power of eminent domain, this letter and its contents are subject to Nebraska Revised Statute § 27-408 and are not admissable to prove the existence or amount of liability [Tim M. Irons, TransCanada, letter to landowner, 2010.07.21].

Sure enough, Nebraska statute 27-408 says landowners condemned by this foreign company can’t establish the market value of their property by showing the judge the fair market value the most interested buyer was willing to offer. Of course, one could argue that 27-408 applies to negotiations, and this letter doesn’t sound like negotiation; it sounds like intimidation, take it or leave it.

The deadline was August 21. No word yet on whether TransCanada has pulled the legal trigger. But remember, TransCanada hasn’t even received the necessary permits to build Keystone XL. As the Lincoln JournalStar points out, forcing landowners to incur the legal expenses of fighting eminent domain in court even before they know whether the legal fight is necessary is grossly unfair to landowners. If TransCanada truly respected American landowners, it wouldn’t go near the courts until its pipeline received official approval, if at all.
Side note on language: notice the weaselly use of passive voice by Irons. Twice he says the company “will be forced” to use eminent domain. Forced? By whom? This is standard corporate-speak, using vague passive voice to divest the corporation and the people running it of responsibility for the bad things they do. You aren’t being forced, TransCanada. You are choosing to use the American courts against American citizens to take American land for nothing more than your own profit. (Irons does slip in paragraph 2 of the letter, saying, “Keystone will use eminent domain….” Credit for at least once owning the action with active voice.)

CNN Covers SD Pipeline; TransCanada Sells More Snake Oil

Posted: Thursday, August 19, 2010 at 8:30 am
By: Cory Allen Heidelberger
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CNN comes to South Dakota to learn about the joys of having a tar sands pipeline running throuh your family farm. Thom Patterson speaks to Mike and Sue Sibson, the Miner County farmers whose experience with TransCanada’s Keystone pipeline I featured last September.

The Sibsons are the nearest landowners to Pump Station #22, site of TransCanada’s June oil leak. Patterson learns that the Sibsons received no notification from TransCanada about the leak. Why didn’t the Sibsons receive any warning?

“No sense in alarming them,” said TransCanada Vice President Robert Jones. “There was no concern with regard to the environment or public safety with these very, very small, isolated incidents” [Thom Patterson, “Could Gulf-like Disaster Scar the Heartland?”, 2010.08.19].

Standard TransCanada corporate-speak: oil leaks are normal, nothing to be afraid of, just move along and keep your noses out of our business… even though our business is on your land.

TransCanada: Oil Leaks Normal

Posted: Monday, August 2, 2010 at 8:41 am
By: Cory Allen Heidelberger
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WNAX gets comment from TransCanada on its oil leaks in May and June at the Carpenter and Roswell pump stations on the Keystone pipeline. “To a certain extent, these are normal parts of bringing the pipeline into service,” says company spokesman Jeff Rauh.

Why yes, oil spills do appear to be normal operating procedure for oil companies, along with explosions, destruction, and death, as documented by this new National Wildlife Federation report (PDF). Summarizing the last decade of oil industry malfeasance, NWF counts 2554 significant incidents, 161 deaths, and 576 injuries from pipeline mishaps alone.

South Dakota doesn’t appear much in the NWF 2010 report. Alas, as TransCanada seeks to bring more of its normal pipeline operations through South Dakota, I worry we’ll figure more prominently in the 2020 edition.

TransCanada Keystone: Two Leaks in Two Months

Posted: Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 7:38 am
By: Cory Allen Heidelberger
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I was wrong: the June oil spew at Pump Station 22 near Roswell on the TransCanada Keystone Pipeline was not the first reported spill. Shortly after posting the DENR report on the Roswell incident, I received this DENR report documenting a 5-gallon leak at Pump Station 21 near Carpenter in Beadle County on May 21, 2010. This time a leaky valve was the culprit.

Leaky valve… would that be anywhere near a pipe joint… the kind of joint Welspun might have built… the kind of joint that was the source of hundreds of defects in Welspun-supplied steel in other pipelines built between 2007 and 2009?

Five gallons doesn’t sound like much, and tar sands oil is supposed to be relatively more viscous than regular crude oil, meaning it shouldn’t spread as much. But heavy rain during the leak appears to have spread the oil around the site in a 47×29-foot area. The clean-up crew ended up hauling away 185 cubic yards of contaminated dirt and 9356 gallons of contaminated water. Compare that to the 100-gallon leak at Roswell, which resulted in removal of 200 cubic yards of oily soil and only 2500 gallons of yucky water.

A mere five gallons of spilled oil is pretty good for local business. The May spill report includes receipts from Safety-Kleen out of Sioux Falls for about $9500 in giant Shop-Vac services. I wonder if TransCanada and Governor Rounds included that in their promises of economic benefits from the pipeline.

Now here’s the really good news about the Carpenter and Roswell spills: in its June 2006 pipeline risk assessment for its State Department permit application, TransCanada predicted the following spill frquencies:

Of the postulated 1.4 spills along the Keystone Pipeline system during a 10-year period, the study’s findings suggest that approximately 0.2 would be 50 barrels or less; 0.8 would consist of 50 to 1000 barrels; 0.3 would consist of between 1,000 and 10,000 barrels; and 0.2 would contain more than 10,000 barrels (Appendix A). The spill volume frequency distribution likely underestimates the proportion of spill volumes under 50 barrels due to reliance upon the greater than 50 barrel reporting criteria within the USDOT incident database. The curent analysis tends to overemphasize large spills and underreport the small spills, making the assessment conservative.

Based on probabilities generated from the study, the estimated occurrence intervals for a spill of 50 barrels or less occurring anywhere along the entire pipeline system is once every 65 years, a spill between 50 and 1,000 barrels might occur once in 12 years; a spill of 1,000 and 10,000 barrels might occur once in 39 years; and a spill containing more than 10,000 barrels might occur once in 50 years. Applying these statistics to a 1-mile section, the chances of a larger spill (greater than 10,000 barrels) would be less than once every 67,000 years [ENSR Corporation for TransCanada, “Pipeline Risk Assessment and Environmental Consequence Analysis,” Document No. 10623-004, June 2006].

In other words (Canadian readers will appreciate this), two spills in one year means we are ahead by a century.

Now, if only our local media weren’t behind by a century. If I were a paid journalist, I’d find two reported oil leaks before the pipeline became fully operational a significant story. But still no word from the mainstream media….

Bonus: Here’s a reminder from WEB Water Development’s June 2007 filing with the PUC on the environmental threat posed by the Keystone pipeline:

The TransCanada-Keystone Oil Pipeline plan calls for a wide separation between mainline automated valves and manual valves. For example, the distance between the pump station at the North Dakota-South Dakota state line and the next pumping station near Ferney, SD is about 42 miles of 30 inch pipe which would hold about 156,660,000 gallons of crude-oil (3,728,571 barrels). The distance between the Fernery pump station and the next pump station near Carpenter, SD is about 47 miles of 30 inch pipe which would hold about 175,312,000 gallons of crude oil (4,174,000 barrels). In addition to the 4 automated valves at compressor pump stations, the TransCanada-Keystone Pipeline will have 7 to 10 manually operated valves on the 220 miles of pipeline in South Dakota, with some valves being 20 to 30 miles apart. In the event of a major pipe failure, there may not be time to reach valves to stop the crude-oil from draining out of the pipeline on to productive farm land and into wetlands. Manually operated valves won’t do much good if the TransCanada operations staff are hundreds of miles away in Alberta or Omaha. A pipe failure at a low elevation point on either the 42 mile reach between North Dakota and Ferney, SD or the 47 mile reach between Ferney and Carpenter, SD could result in a spill of millions of gallons of crude oil. By way of comparison, the 155 mile WEB water mainline has 31 manual isolation valves, with each valve located every 5 miles, and six pump stations and control points which are monitored and operated by a computerized SCADA system and operations staff dispatched out of Aberdeen, South Dakota.

BP, TransCanada Buy Same “Scientists”

Posted: Saturday, July 24, 2010 at 8:19 am
By: Cory Allen Heidelberger
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Classic Big Oil playbook: BP is trying to stifle science. As it rounds up experts to help build its defense against over 300 lawsuits stemming from the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill, BP is trying to get academics under contract not just to testify on their behalf, but to prevent them from offering any testimony for plaintiffs against BP. Those contracts include confidentiality clauses that would restrict scientists on BP’s payroll from publishing any research results on the oil spill for three years.

Hmmm… why kill all the lawyers when you can buy all the scientists?

Anyone care to speculate how many of the 3% of active climate scientists who still deny anthropogenic climate change have been similarly bought by Big Oil? Or how many of these educated folks who helped prepare the inadequate draft environmental impact statement for the Keystone XL pipeline may have contracts to ensure they never say a discouraging word about the designs of Big Oil?

Worth noting: Entrix, the consulting firm TransCanada paid to write the DEIS and lowball the risk of pipeline rupture, is also BP’s go-to team for environmental consulting. Also, one of the Entrix folks in charge of oil spill risk assessment in the DEIS has as her highest degree an MBA from questionable for-profit online University of Phoenix.