Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Polarization In the Pipeline

Opposition to DAPL in Oklahoma on Tuesday
Critics of America's divisive new POTUS have pointed to his unpredictability as one of the numerous flaws in his shaky leadership style.

But on the first Tuesday of this fledgling administration Trump was anything but unpredictable as he signed a slew of executive orders that read like the start of an all-out assault on the environmental protections that keep our air, water and soil safe.

It's probably safe to say that those executive orders were, in part, a reaction to the fact his fragile ego is likely still bruised from all the Women's Marches that took place across America (and the world) on Saturday.

Trump's latest political boasting includes pledges to kickstart the stalled Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines, but if he had even a remote interest in reuniting a country left divided by his toxic presidential campaign, this was clearly not the move. But he did it anyway.

As a brief snapshot-reminder of just how divisive these pipeline projects are, my good friend and former high school classmate James sent me the above photo his wife took yesterday afternoon.

Now some of you may recall that James is a resident of the Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma, a state where rampant natural gas fracking has already caused an exponential increase in earthquake activity - and yes, the state where Scott Pruitt, Trump's nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency served as attorney general.

James and his wife were just outside of Ada, Oklahoma on Tuesday when they saw the car pictured above with hand-drawn letters covering the back windshield spelling out the widely-shared Twitter hashtag,  #NoDAPL and the words "Water Is Life."

Major Canadian & U.S. pipelines 
It was encouraging to see that kind of grass roots resistance popping up so quickly after Trump's announcement about moving forward on both controversial pipeline projects.

The White House announcements also sparked quick reactions from environmental groups and politicians in Washington as well.

Including Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

The feisty former Democratic candidate, who made opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline a plank of his presidential campaign, defiantly Tweeted that "I will do everything I can to stop Keystone XL and DAPL."

Native American activists who spent months protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline quickly announced plans to oppose it in court if necessary, but the larger trend is troubling for America's natural, political and ethical environments.

Remember, Trump stands to reap massive personal windfalls as a direct result of his using his executive powers to push to approve these pipelines.

Most reasonable-minded folks would call that conflict of interest...on steroids.

Not only has the unpopular POTUS disclosed large personal investments in some of the major oil companies that have partnered to invest in building the DAPL, as reported he's accepted large campaign contributions from the CEO of the largest fracking company in America Harold Hamm.

Kelcy Warren, CEO of Energy Transfer Partners
Kelcy Warren, the CEO of Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the DAPL, donated $100,300 in campaign contributions to Trump's presidential campaign.

Trump is already facing a potential lawsuit filed on Monday by a team of legal and Constitutional scholars and experts who argue that his tangled secretive web of foreign investments represents a clear violation of the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

We should all familiarize ourselves with the Emoluments Clause by the way, the way Trump's transition is going, odds are good that we'll be hearing about it again soon.

The massive grassroots opposition to the DAPL and Keystone XL isn't just about those two specific projects, it's also about the larger threat to America's environmental protections that are now in the hands of a Republican president who thinks climate change is a "hoax" cooked up by the Chinese, and a Republican Congress largely bought and paid for the nations largest oil and gas companies.

There are other large-scale pipeline projects in the works that have received far less national media attention which also pose grave potential threats to the natural environment.

Like the Bayou Bridge Pipeline in Louisiana.

As New Orleans reporter Aviva Shen reported in an article posted on back on January 14th, the Bayou Bridge Pipeline would form the final leg of the Dakota Access Route, forming a "bridge" pipeline that would link to an existing pipeline that stretches from Nederaland, Texas to Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Section of swamp in the Atchafalaya Basin
As Shen notes:

"The Bayou Bridge Pipeline would carry 480,000 barrels of oil a day a final 162 miles across the state to refineries and ports, through eight watersheds and long stretches of fragile wetlands."

That includes parts of the Atchafalaya Basin, a fragile system of rivers, swamps, bayous and wetlands covering 1.4 million acres that stretches 140 miles across central Louisiana.

Not only is it a National Heritage site, it's the largest area of wetlands and swamp in the United States teeming with wildlife where the Atchafalaya River meets the Gulf of Mexico.

The idea of a pipeline that carries 480,000 barrels of crude oil a day rupturing in a remote section of the Atchafalaya Basin is like imagining an environmental crime of incalculable proportions.

And remember that's oil we (Americans) don't actually need - the bulk of the tar sands crude extracted from North Dakota will be transported south to refineries and ports along the Gulf of Mexico where it will be loaded on to tankers and exported to other countries.

In the long term that has little to do with America's "energy independence", it only makes sense to the profit margins of the web of companies that will extract the oil, build the pipelines, refine the oil and ship it overseas to make a profit.

Trans-Pecos Pipeline cuts through Texas 
Profit (for a relative few) that comes at a cost to the environment that will be passed on to human, wildlife and plant life in the form of increased toxins in the soil, more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and contaminated fresh water from pipeline leaks.

There are real consequences to this fury of pipeline expansion, for example an article in 2015 reported an 87% increase in pipeline accidents between 2009 and 2014.

Not just oil pipelines either.

With America's untested Twitter-happy POTUS intentionally releasing outlandish headline-grabbing statements via his social media account on a daily basis to distract the media and public from all the real crazy shit Republicans are doing, it's pretty unlikely the words Trans-Pecos Pipeline will splash across the headlines of mainstream media anytime soon.

Since 2014 when it was first announced, local residents who live in the Big Bend region of Texas have been standing in opposition to this project that will transport fracked natural gas 143 miles from Texas to Mexico through a 42-inch diameter pipeline that will transport up to 1.4 million cubic-feet of natural gas per day under 1,400 pounds of pressure per square-inch.

Raise your hand if you'd want to live within a mile of that.

Who won the contract to build this $770 million project designed as a way to export some of the massive glut of natural gas in America (a result of rampant over-production) to a country with the 6th largest natural gas reserves in the world?

As reported, two multi-billionaires, Mexican businessman Carlos Slim, the 2nd richest man in the world and (drum roll please....) Kelcy Warren, CEO of the aforementioned Energy Transfer Partners.

Same company building the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Same guy who's in business with Trump as you read these words and gave $100,300 to his campaign.

With the profiteering POTUS announcing that his own administration officials will now censor the science presented on the Web pages of the EPA, it's a clear signal that his goal is to allow fossil fuel companies unlimited leeway to encroach on the environment to increase their profits.

It's also clear that this slew of new pipeline construction is going to contribute far more to global warming and political polarization than it will to the long-term prosperity and best interests of the American people.

We're not in Kansas anymore, and we're way beyond "drill baby drill."

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