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NEWS: Doer says Keystone XL decision should be made on ‘facts, not noise’

In today’s Montreal Gazette and other Postmedia News newspapers, it is reported that, “Canada’s ambassador to the U.S. Gary Doer said Tuesday he is confident the Obama administration will approve the controversial Keystone XL oilsands pipeline if it is guided by facts about the project’s safety and environmental impacts, and not the ‘noise’ generated by opponents who protested for two weeks outside the White House. …’Our issue is — is this decision going to be made on facts, or is it going to be made on noise? And if it is made on facts, I am confident,’ Doer said.”

In the article (, Doer makes the same arguments for the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline that he has been making for sometime now.

But as outlined in our recent action alert, it’s Mr. Doer who doesn’t have his facts straight.

1. CANADA IS DEMOCRATIC: Doer suggests it is not difficult to persuade Americans they are better off relying on oil from Canada than from “unstable or undemocratic regimes.” This is a limiting and false choice. Moving ahead with the Keystone Pipeline XL project assumes that Americans will remain dependent on carbon fuels for the next several decades. Instead, the U.S., like Canada can choose policies that will pave a different path away from fossil fuel dependence. Policies that help reduce oil consumption, such as public transportation plans, improved fuel efficiency and renewable energy.

2. THE TAR SANDS AND KEYSTONE CREATES U.S. JOBS: Doer also suggest that the Keystone XL pipeline will lead to 20,000 unionized construction jobs. We assume that you are referring the Perryman Group study commissioned by TransCanada, the industry behind the Keystone pipeline. The job estimates in this report have been widely criticized. These estimates are roughly thirteen times greater than the estimates prepared by the U.S. State department in its draft environmental impact statement on the project. Nearly one in five construction workers in the U.S. are currently unemployed. These and other workers need jobs, but they also need a liveable environment and communities for their families. The Canadian government must start taking seriously the need to shift to sustainable energy alternatives which will generate jobs, and providing support and transition strategies for impacted workers.

3. PIPELINE SAFETY: Regarding the safety of the Keystone XL pipeline. TransCanada, not unlike your comments, has consistently reassured the public that their pipelines are safe, yet TransCanada’s own Keystone 1 pipeline spilled eleven times in its first year of operation. As reported by Canadian media, in 2009, Alberta’s pipeline industry had a pipeline failure rate of 1.7 per 1,000 kilometres of pipeline, bettering (but still not more acceptable than) the previous record of 2.1 set in both 2008 and 2007. Independent analysis prepared by a water resources engineer at the University of Nebraska lends further questions to these reassurances. Whereas TransCanada’s assessment of the expected frequency of significant spills equates to 11 spills over the course of a 50 years, this independent analysis estimates closer to 91 major spills. Tar sands are unlike conventional oil. It’s more corrosive and acidic consistency makes spills more likely.

4. WATER FOR TAR SANDS OIL VS. ETHANOL: Regarding his comparison of water used to produce tar sands oil to ethanol. It is misleading to talk about the amount of water used for ethanol. The reality is that the tar sands are using unsustainable amounts of water. Operations are currently using 652 million cubic metres which is 7 times the annual water use of the Edmonton area. By 2020 the Tar Sands will use 45 cubic metres per second which is half of the Athabasca River’s low winter flow.[v] The tar sands are also responsible for the contamination of water. Four billion litres of contaminated water are released into Alberta’s groundwater and natural ecosystems every year.[vi] Toxins connected to tar sands production have been found as far downstream as the Athabasca delta one of the largest freshwater deltas in the world. The Keystone XL planned route crosses major rivers and key sources of drinking and agricultural water including the Ogallala aquifer which supplies two million Americas. This is why many are attending the ongoing Washington sit-ins, why landowners, despite documented cases of bullying on the part of TransCanada, are continuing to oppose this project.

5. TAR SANDS HAVE RELATIVELY LIMITED EMISSIONS: Regarding the tar sands contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. The tar sands are already the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada. Environment Canada estimates that emission from the tar sands will triple over the next ten years, by 2020, tar sands operations may account for twelve per cent of our national emissions! Numerous studies have verified that the tar sands have a heavier carbon footprint than conventional oil. One such report estimates that average GHG emissions for tar sands extraction and upgrading compared to conventional crude oil produced in Canada or the US are 3.2 to 4.5 times more intensive per barrel. This is why many concerned citizens in Canada and the U.S. are raising questions about our reliance on tar sands crude and expansion plans.

TAKE ACTION – Send Doer a message – to both get his facts straight and to stop lobbying in favour of the Keystone XL pipeline – through our action alert at Additionally, if today’s Postmedia News report appears in your local newspaper, be sure to write a letter to the editor challenging Doer’s ‘fact-based’ argument.