Keystone’s Communities: Underrepresented in Conversations About Implementation

For any pro-pipeliners out there, I have a question for you: if it was your town sitting on the path of the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, would you still support it? 

Much of the discussion surrounding the pipeline’s implementation deals with the economics of the issue: job growth, revenue from exports, etc. What these discussions lack and honestly what almost every conversation about environmental issues lacks is humanity. It sounds kind of corny, but we’re dealing with real people here. Politicians and media alike are valuing macro issues like reduced dependency on Russia and the Middle East over micro issues like the potential of serious health risks to surrounding communities.

It’s hard, because this issue is of international scale. The ripples from this decision will reach markets in Russia and the Middle East. Canada, the supplier of land to extract the tar sands for the pipeline has obvious stake in the issue. But it is the communities that would surround the pipeline and the oil refineries that will feel the most devastating effects.

Increased risk of cancerous cell development (see previous post, Keystone Pipeline XL: Cancer Generator) and the potential of water contamination (Are Water Sources at Risk With The Keystone XL Pipeline?) are few among many of the effects that could be felt if the pipeline is passed.

Take it from someone who’s been there. Eriel Deranger, an activist and spokesperson for the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation is from an area in North Alberta, Canada, where tar sands are currently being extracted. She doesn’t live there anymore.

Aerial view of tar sands extraction in Alberta (via The Nation)

Aerial view of tar sands extraction in Alberta (via The Nation)

“I don’t live in my community because I have children,” The Nation quotes, “and I can’t bear the fact that if I lived in my community, I would be putting their lives at risk.”

So now that you’ve had some time to consider your position, let’s check in. Here’s another question: If faced by a member of one of these at-risk communities, do you feel that you could in good conscious, defend the pipeline?

Ed Shultz, host of MSNBC’s The Ed Show, couldn’t. A longtime ardent supporter of Keystone, Shultz flew out to Nebraska to speak with people who will be most directly affected by the pipeline. Soon after his trip, he renounced his support for the project and urged President Obama to make the same pilgrimage.

Screen shot 2014-04-21 at 11.15.27 PM

He says, ““You won’t have all the information, Mr. President, unless you do what I did. It’s an eye opener. It’s a risk. It’s unnecessary. We don’t have to do this.” (click to watch the clip)

We don’t have all the information and that’s because the members of these communities are not being adequately represented. Until they are given a sufficient say in this issue in which we are all stakeholders, can we allow them to bear the burden of the pipeline? Is it worth it? Think about it: what if it was you, your family and your community at risk.

So I’ll ask you one more time: if it was your town sitting on the path of the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, would you still support it?








The Other Keystone: Cove Point (right here in MD!)

Natural Gas Exports

Maryland’s ban on fracking is up in August. Energy companies are chomping at the bit, ready to profit off of our land. The Marcellus Shale region in Western MD has been the biggest target for natural gas extraction, but there’s another site, right on the Chesapeake Bay: Dominion Energy’s Cove Point. Check out this article that draws comparisons between Cove Point and Keystone:


Breaking down the claims made by pro-pipeline entities


Without exception, all arguments in favor of the installment of the pipeline deal with economic benefit. Keystone XL has been labeled as a domestic solution that would curb our dependence on the Middle East and other oil-producing nations, bring thousands of jobs to low-income areas with high unemployment and rake in billions of dollars in revenue. Sounds like a miracle cure, right?

Before we answer that, let’s look at the facts. TransCanada is the major backing organization behind the project. They’ve made some huge claims about job creation, which if true, could have a substantially positive affect on US employment. What they’ve said:

  • “The project would support more than 42,000 direct and indirect jobs nationwide.”
  • “The project is expected to create over seven million hours of labor.”


Okay, so we’ve seen a few statements from them. But there are a lot of numbers floating around from a lot of different sources. To get what we hope is an objective breakdown of the facts, we turn to a study conducted by Cornell University and the Global Labor Institute. Together, the two entities looked into TransCanada and other pro-Keystone corporations and organizations’ claims about job creation. What they found:

  • The jobs counted are not all new jobs. They include existing Keystone employees and contractors.
  • Only 10-15% of the workforce would be hired locally.”
  • “Estimates do not consider the jobs that might be destroyed as a result of the pipeline and the expanded use of Tar Sands oil.” There have already been 14 oil spills during Phase 1 of construction. Spills threaten water sources that are vital to the livelihoods of farmers, ranchers and some tourism industries.

It never hurts to pull from multiple sources. The US State Department conducted a comprehensive investigation into the pipeline project. What they determined:

  • Construction supports about 42,100 jobs for the 2-year construction period. Per their definition, “A job consists of one position that is filled for one year.” Also important, “the termsupport means jobs ranging from new jobs to the continuity of existing jobs in current or new locations” (Sec. 4.3.3) Jobs would be temporary.
  • “Once the proposed Project enters service, operations would require approximately 50 total employees in the United States: 35 permanent employees and 15 temporary contractors.” (Sec. 4.3.4)Only about 50 persons would remain employed after the two-year construction period is complete.
  • Building off the above finding, “This small number would result in negligible impacts on population, housing, and public services in the proposed Project area” (Sec. 4.3.4) The people who would migrate to the site to work on the pipeline would be left jobless, creating burdens for the project area after the pipeline is completed.


When you hold up TransCanada’s claims next to actual findings, the discrepancies are apparent. The numbers that do match up, like the 42,000 related jobs claim aren’t put into the context or applied to the timeline of the actual project. Bottom line is, the claims made by TransCanada and other pro-pipeline entities don’t consider a realistic application of these claims. Keystone XL’s construction, as planned, would last only 2 years. With the end of the construction would come the end of nearly all the jobs it put in place. It’s a temporary fix, a band-aid to cover a wound that really needs stitching, not to mention some serious care post-trauma.

Meet the bloggers, Pt. 1


Hi, everyone! My name is Hannah Rosenberg and I’m a junior Communication major from Silver Spring, MD. This is a picture of my left cheek repping an anti-Keystone XL Pipeline sticker at a recent protest. Want to know how I got here? Read my story:

On March 2, I headed to Georgetown University via the Metro (and cabbed the extra 3 miles from Foggy Bottom) to join a group numbering upwards of 1000 in protest against the Keystone XL Pipeline. I’d never been to an environmental action. Students- my own age- had organized and brought this to life.

Coming in, my exposure to the facts fit into one of three categories: news coverage, youtube videos or conversations with my friends and family. When we reached Lafayette Square, I added a forth category. Speeches were made that invoked every emotion from anger, to passion to fear. Besides the environmental devastation that would be brought on by the pipeline’s installment, what really struck me was the type of communities that would be affected.

One protestor’s sign read, “The people affected by the pipeline can’t afford to be here.” I feel with complete conviction that this pipeline wouldn’t even be considered if the communities it ran through were filled with affluent, wealthy people. It’s infuriating to think that our President, our Government would allow this to pass because it can. Because the people who are affected don’t have the influence to stop it. They need to be heard, and quickly! This issue is actively unfolding, so it can’t wait. Consider signing the petition below to convince President Obama to go speak to the people of Nebraska–one of the states that Keystone XL’s would run right through. Even if you’re not sure exactly how you feel about this issue, the people who will experience the most immediate effects, the people who are already experiencing the effects, do, so let them be heard. Here’s the link: