Oh look: free breakfast and baloney from oil industry shills:

Consumer Group to host South Dakota Pipeline Safety Breakfast

Industry experts to converge in Pierre, South Dakota to discuss critical safety issues surrounding the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline

Pierre, SDConsumer Energy Alliance (CEA), an organization that advocates for energy consumers, will host a briefing to inform South Dakota legislators and staff about important pipeline safety issues surrounding the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline on Tuesday, January 27, 2015 at 8:30 a.m. CT. Breakfast will be provided for attendees.

  • What: South Dakota Pipeline Safety Breakfast hosted by CEA
  • When: Tuesday, January 27, 2015 from 8:30 a.m. - 9:30 a.m. CT
  • Where: South Dakota Education Association Auditorium, 411 East Capitol Avenue, Pierre, South Dakota
  • Who: Moderator: Michael Whatley, CEA Executive Vice President; Brigham McCown, former administrator of the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA); Andrew Black, President and CEO of the Association of Oil Pipe Lines
  • RSVP: Credentialed media should RSVP to Kristin Marcell at kristin@smartmarkusa.com or 215-504-4272.

Credentialed media—in other words, no bloggers or other amateurs allowed. (Say, where does one get an official journalist's license in South Dakota, anyway?)

The Consumer Energy Alliance is a front group for tar sands oil companies. The "moderator" for the January 27 Pierre event, Washington D.C. Lobbyist Michael Whatley, created the CEA to wage an astroturfy public-relations campaign against clean-fuel standards. Whatley has used CEA to create what his own e-mails call an "Echo Chamber" of industry press releases to promote Keystone XL since fall 2011. Brigham McCown is a Bush recount lawyer who got his PHMSA gig through cronyism, not pipeline safety expertise. Andrew Black's job is to lobby for pipelines on behalf of his organization's members, which include Keystone XL builder TransCanada. His degree is in economics and his experience is in media relations and politics, not engineering.

But hey, they're serving breakfast. Mmmm.

Update 07:43 CDT: If Whatley really wants to "moderate" a discussion, he should invite energy consumer Rick Weiland to expand on the thesis he offers in Sunday's Sioux Falls paper that Keystone XL simply feeds oil-industry greed.

16 comments

From what alternative-universe dystopia is Rep. Isaac Latterell blogging? The Tea (party and town) Republican prefaces his Monday commentary on proposals to raise taxes to fix South Dakota roads with two servings of red herring:

But as the Federal Reserve continuously prints money, and Obama’s draconian policies prohibit more U.S. oil production, costs to build and repair roads have been going up [Rep. Isaac Latterell, "South Dakota's 90th Legislative Session Begins," blog post, 2015.01.19].

Let's get literal: yes, the government prints money. 85% of the Fiscal Year 2015 order for 7.2 billion notes valued at $188.7 billion is ordered to replace destroyed currency. That's just Uncle Sam doing the proper business of government. Isaac, if you're worried about folks printing bogus money, tell your conservative friends to stop playing with Bitcoins (oh, never mind: market already solving).

The second serving about oil production sounds like the GOP fabrication of some "war on energy." Maybe Rep. Latterell thinks "draconian" means "fantastical, not real, like dragons": as I must tediously remind the Representative from Tea, under the Obama Adminstration, U.S. monthly oil production rebounded from a 23-year decline and grew by October 2014 to 53% higher than the highest it ever was under President George W. Bush (May 2002).

But Rep. Latterell appears to dislike discussions of reality at the national or local level. Rather than focusing his commentary on the realities of the conditions of roads and other public services that shape South Dakota's Legislative priorities, Rep. Latterell wants to frame everything in terms of whatever right-wing podcast-rot he's listening to on the earbuds he shares with Senator Haggar:

...[T]he reason we have these discussions at all is because the Federal Government and Federal Reserve are out of control, far beyond their intended authority. With the Fed printing money (which devalues your dollar and causes inflation), and burdensome taxes and regulation increasing the costs of everything, now is the time to pass amendments to the Constitution using Article V which will return the power to you locally [Latterell, 2015.01.19].

Rep. Latterell amplifies his indigestion about printing money by citing the ever-present bogeyman of inflation. I understand that when folks like Latterell yell about printing money, they're really yelling about economic stimulus and deficit spending. Under the last six years of stimulus and deficit spending, inflation has averaged 1.6%. That's the lowest six-year average we've seen since 1966. Right now, the Fed's "printing money" (with or without quote marks) is not causing inflation, or at worst, it's causing darned little.

(As for this Article V tangent—that's the right-wing plot to get just enough conservatives in just enough state legislatures to convene a Constitutional Convention. It won't pave a single road or pay a single teacher in South Dakota, but it will likely scrap the Constitution as we know it. But that's a tangent about Isaac's preference for fantasy-football politics over representing the practical interests of his South Dakota constituents, a whole blog post, if not an entire blog, of its own.)

But no, really, Rep. Latterell insists in an earlier post, inflation and disaster are coming!

The Governor announced in his budget address that sales tax revenues came in below estimates, signs that the Fed’s money printing and phony stimulus bubble is showing signs of bursting. This would be the largest tax increase in South Dakota history, at a time when our national debt, inflation, and economic situation have gotten even more dangerous and I am predicting will see another severe correction in 2015 [Rep. Isaac Latterell, "Representative Latterell Joins Craig Dewey on The Facts Sunday," blog post, 2015.01.04].

Rep. Latterell, you've been reading Rep. Rev. Hickey's secret online fanfic novel, The Long Economic Winter, haven't you?

I get what's happening here. Reality is kicking the crap out of conservatives' worldview. The President's approval rating is rising (not as much as il production was, but hey, you don't get miracles). When the hyperinflation monster fails to jump out at us from around the corner, conservative abstractionists like Rep. Latterell must stoke out fears that the monster is still just around the next corner. When the world doesn't blow up, they have to keep telling us the world is going to blow up.

And when national talk radio and blogs don't tell him what to think about real South Dakota issues like fixing roads and bridges, Rep. Latterell has to contort a real pressing local problem into karaoke speeches about right-wing fantasies. District 6, is Rep. Latterell's detachment from reality really what you voted for?

p.s.: Then again, maybe gasoline prices will bounce back, to $5 a gallon. I'll bet an Article V Convention will help us invent fusion cars!

22 comments

Yesterday Rep. Kristi Noem and the U.S. House voted for the tenth time to usurp executive authority and force immediate federal approval of the Canadian tar sands pipeline and eminent domain land grab known as Keystone XL.

Rep. Noem retreads this excuse for her vote:

Delaying Keystone is depriving South Dakota of good jobs, millions of dollars in revenue for cash-strapped counties, and relief for the roads and rails that are currently crowded with oil transit. Moreover, the White House has released more than 20,000 pages of reviews showing Keystone is in the best interest of our environment and our national economy – even admitting in a State Department report that the pipeline would support approximately 42,100 jobs.

In the time that it’s taken to approve Keystone, 10,000 miles of pipeline have been laid in the U.S. – that’s equal to eight Keystone XL Pipelines. We’ve debated Keystone long enough; now is the time to build it [Rep. Kristi Noem, e-mail to supporters, 2015.01.09].

Rick Weiland says Rep. Noem and the House are confused by Big Oil and Big Money:

There isn’t a more egregious example of the stranglehold that ‘big money’ has on our Congress and elected officials than this effort to build the Keystone pipeline.

As I stated throughout my campaign for the United States Senate, this is all about greed -- billions of dollars of it every year.

Early on, the perpetrators of this con, TransCanada, a foreign oil corporation and their ‘big money’ investors, boasted about creating hundreds of thousands of jobs and making America more energy secure. They began their ‘big money’ television campaign and commenced convincing the people of South Dakota and around the country that this was a good thing.

In fact, during the last weeks of the campaign, there was a ‘big money’ effort to tie the rail car shortage and grain problem South Dakota is experiencing, as another reason to build Keystone. The lie was if you build the pipeline, it would move oil so that the rail system would be freed up to move grain.

Fact is, there are no real jobs -- thirty-five permanent jobs according to the GAO and another 1800 temporary jobs for the entire project.

Fact is, Keystone XL is an export pipeline. Most of the oil is moving from the tar sands of Canada to the state of Texas for export to China. We get very little of the oil, so where is the ‘energy security’? We are nothing more than a pass through, taking on the risk for no reward.

With regard to relieving the problem of the inability of our railway system to ship grain, fact is, the oil coming out of the Bakken fields in ND, not Canada, ties up the rail system. These producers have very little interest in using Keystone. They want the flexibility to move their product by rail and truck to markets here in the United States.

In fact, I cannot think of one reason to build this pipeline other than to placate ‘big oil’ and their ‘big money’. I can think of lots of reasons not to. Did you know, TransCanada, a foreign oil corporation, can take South Dakota farm and ranch land without landowner permission through ‘eminent domain’?

Did you know that Keystone One, built in 2010, leaks on a regular basis -- some big leaks too, and that Keystone XL is going to be built over the Ogallala Aquifer, a vital source of water for our region.

And did you know, that the energy it takes to extract the tar sand oil, liquefying it for transport, refining and shipping it overseas for sale, will dump 100 million tons of additional carbon into the atmosphere.

When the threat of climate change has 99% of the scientists in the world seriously worried about the future of the planet and the human race, this greed is inexcusable and needs to be exposed and rejected. We should be transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy, not doubling down on Keystone [Rick Weiland, press release, 2015.01.09].

On the same day the House repeated its mistake, the Nebraska Supreme Court came one vote shy of requiring pipeliner TransCanada to draw a new route for Keystone XL through Nebraska. Pipeline opponents needed five judges out of the seven to agree with a lower court that a state law giving the governor authority to approve the pipeline route instead of the Nebraska Public Service Commission violated the state constitution. Four judges agreed, but three avoided the issue and said the plaintiffs lacked standing.

(O.K., new rule: from now on, before any lawsuit proceeds, we get a clear ruling from the court on who has standing and who doesn't. Or better yet, on Keystone XL, where we have Congressmen from Minnesota and Ohio voting for a pipeline that doesn't cross their state because they say all Americans will benefit from shipping Canadian oil to China, all Americans get standing!)

The Indigenous Environmental Network and Dakota Rural Action say their fight to block Keystone XL in South Dakota will continue. They encourage President Barack Obama to help them out:

“The Nebraska State Supreme Court decision does not change the facts on the matter. The Keystone XL pipeline still remains a threat to the livelihoods of America's farmers, ranchers, tribal nations, and individual landowners. And the fact remains that TransCanada cannot build Keystone XL in South Dakota.

We South Dakota pipeline fighters stand strong in our commitment to see the Keystone XL permit rejected by our state's Public Utilities Commission and by President Obama.

The President has all the information he needs to act and reject Keystone XL today. This pipeline fails the President's climate test. We encourage him to make the right choice to the benefit of us all" [Indigenous Environmental Network and Dakota Rural Action, press release, 2015.01.09].

President Obama has said he will veto the Keystone XL bill that Congress will shortly send him. Remember that his veto will not stop Keystone XL; it will only reject Congress's effort to force approval. The President will still render his own decision on TransCanada's permit application to the U.S. State Department. But remember, President Obama has been playing a coy but clever waiting game. He appears to be letting the clock run to give other forces—the Nebraska Supreme Court, the South Dakota PUC, and now the plunging price of oil, which may not kill tar sands but does change the politics—to stop the pipeline for him.

But President Obama's waiting game is about to run up against its own deadline. Hillary Clinton has only a few months to announce whether she's running for President or not. If she runs, she will run clearly center. She has already been dodging the Keystone XL issue with groups who'd like her to plug tar sands opposition into her pro-environment rhetoric. Clinton's ties to tar sands lobbyists suggest she knows who butters her bread and will advocate the Keystone XL pipeline to win votes from the moderate middle.

That gives President Obama two reasons to take Keystone XL off the table before Clinton's Presidential aspiration becomes official:

  1. Reading P&R Miscellany, the President knows that Keystone XL could split the Dem base. He can take the issue off the table, take the heat as a lame duck, and help Hillary focus on keeping Dems together.
  2. If the Obama–Clinton feud is real, and if the President knows his former Secretary of State supports Keystone XL, he'll want to knock this leg out from under her before the campaign really gets going. President Obama won't go for a direct, distracting confrontation with Clinton during her campaign, because he, unlike Harry Reid, would put winning before personal grudges. But he will take a chance to do what's right, block the pipeline, and force Clinton to campaign on other issues.

Expect Senators John Thune and Mike Rounds to jump on the Keystone XL bandwagon again next week. Expect the President to veto Congress's latest maneuvering, but then watch for a proper Presidential decision some time this year, before Hillary Clinton dclares her candidacy.

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Remember how Mike Rounds told us that Keystone XL would help South Dakota farmers by freeing up rail cars to haul grain instead of oil? Farm and blog friend Don Carr notices that, once Rounds was safely elected, the South Dakota Corn Growers changed their tune and admitted that the tar sands pipeline would not free up that much rail for farm products (a "blip on the radar," said SDCGA president Keith Alverson).

Carr contends that Rounds is putting Big Oil over Big Corn:

Rounds offered tepid support at best for one of South Dakota’s biggest ag products saying corn ethanol’s role was only as an oxygenate – not a ringing endorsement. And Rounds proudly took money from interests looking to upend the corn ethanol mandate. Meanwhile his challenger called for a dramatic increase in the blend of corn ethanol to 30% in U.S. gas tanks and was the only one to offer an agriculture policy plan [Don Carr, "Keystone Forces Corn Farmer Quandary," Republic of Awesome, 2015.01.06].

Apparently the Big Ag interests who backed Rounds are less interested in promoting their energy production than in blocking regulation of their pollutants:

American water quality is declining due to agriculture pollutants. Regulation is an increasingly viable option. For those reasons defeating the EPA rule has become agriculture’s main quest. So much so that they’re willing to jump in bed with declared enemies and let campaign lies slide [Carr, 2015.01.06].

By backing Rounds, the corn lobby is saying it wants to increase the chances of oil pollution on the prairie while fighting efforts to curb their own polluting activities. They have thus thrown in with a 100% pro-pollution Congressional delegation.

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Dakota Rural Action, Native allies, and other Earth-friendly neighbors go to Pierre today to show their opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline at a Public Utilities Commission hearing at the Capitol. DRA was out yesterday in Rapid City and Sioux Falls protesting the proposed Canadian tar sands pipeline:

Dakota Rural Action protests Keystone XL pipeline in Rapid City, South Dakota, 2015.01.05. (Photo from DRA)

Dakota Rural Action protests Keystone XL pipeline in Rapid City, South Dakota, 2015.01.05. (Photo from DRA)

Dakota Rural Action protests Keystone XL pipeline in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, 2015.01.05. (Photo from DRA)

Dakota Rural Action protests Keystone XL pipeline in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, 2015.01.05. (Photo from DRA)

My Orland neighbor Charlie Johnson goes to the Lake County Commission in Madison today to talk about his concerns about the proposed Dakota Access pipeline, which will cross his organic farm land against his will to carry Bakken crude to Illinois refiners. Commission chairman Scott Pedersen tells me that the only permits Dakota Access would have to submit to Lake County would be the boring permits to bore a path for the pipe under county roads. Dakota Access would also have to apply to the township boards to drill under township roads. That's the only local monkey wrench available to pipeline opponents; otherwise, Charlie and friends will have to go to the PUC to talk Dakota Access, just as DRA and friends are doing today on Keystone XL.

I'm glad Charlie and DRA are braving the cold to bring some heat on these pipelines. I wonder: why do so many other South Dakotans seem so eager to embrace environmentally dangerous projects that abrogate our property rights?

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Pat Powers keeps using the phrase "war on energy," as in, "the Obama Administration[']s EPA continues to prosecute their war on energy production."

Hey, Pat, buy gas lately? I saw $2.19 per gallon yesterday. If these gas prices are a result of a war on energy, please, keep warring!

Oh, guess what: These gas prices are resulting, at least in part from the very earth-friendly Obama policies that Powers irrationally hates. Remember those evil fuel efficiency standards President Obama approved in August 2012? Those standards have helped decrease gasoline demand, contributing to the surplus that's driving oil prices down below the business case threshold for Keystone XL. Even if SUV sales surge (it's already happening, because Americans live in the now... and perhaps because gas nozzles are so phallic?), the President's fuel efficiency standards will conserve energy and temper any price recovery:

...the fuel economy standards will help hold down U.S. gasoline consumption, even if buyers swing back to bigger vehicles. As the standards have toughened, and will get even tighter the next few years, automakers have been making even their lowest-mileage vehicles more efficient.

Since 2010, light trucks — like SUVs and pickups — have already earned an overall 5 percent improvement in gas mileage and by 2025 are expected to have boosted their efficiency by about half.

The mandates are eventually expected to eliminate the need for 3 million barrels of oil per day [Steve Everly, "Cheap Gas Attracts Thirstier Vehicles, But Tougher Fuel Economy Standards Will Make Them Guzzle Less," Kansas City Star, 2014.12.13].

A war on energy would be a war intended to destroy energy ("Impossible!" cry the attentive physicists in the audience), or at least to destroy our sources of energy. If anyone seems hell-bent on waging war on energy, it would seem to be the short-term Republican corporate mindset that advocates burning all the energy we can as fast as we can, leaving no energy—or at least no cheap, easy energy—for our children and grandchildren.

The Obama Adminstration appears to be waging the exact opposite of a war on energy. The Obama Administration is adopting conservation policies that ensure more energy will be around for future generations to use. The Obama Administration is waging a war for energy for future generations against the rapaciousness of a greedy present.

Related reading: Ben Casselman of FiveThirtyEight.com says we know nothing about the future of oil prices.

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Time to set up some protest camps in East River! The Public Utilities Commission has received the formal application from Houston-based Dakota Access to build a Bakken oil pipeline across eastern South Dakota. To kick off the permitting process, the PUC will hit the road, hosting four public meetings January 21 and 22 to give Dakota Access officials a chance to explain their project and take questions from those of us who will host their environmental hazard:

  • Bowdle, school gym, Wednesday, January 21, noon to 3 p.m.
  • Redfield, school auditorium, January 21, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Iroquois, school gym, Thursday, January 22, 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
  • Sioux Falls, Ramkota Roosevelt Room, January 22, 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Bob Mercer reports that South Dakotans unpersuaded by the company's pitch will have until February 513 to file with the PUC as official intervenors in the hearing. The PUC will set a date for the evidentiary hearing and rule on the pipeline application by December 14, 2015.*

Correction 14:41 CST: The original post got the intervenor filing and final decision dates wrong. I have corrected those dates and apologize for messing them up in the first place!

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Which foreign imperialist will get squashed by low oil prices first, Vladimir Putin or TransCanada and its no-long cost-effective Keystone XL pipeline?

..."the political debate is not paralleled by the realities" in the market, said Sandy Fielden, director of energy analytics at Texas-based RBN Energy. "The economics of this project are becoming increasingly borderline."

The problem is that extracting oil from tar sands is difficult and costly. Prices need to be relatively high to make the extra effort profitable.

..."The recent decline in [oil] prices has to give the sponsors some pause," said Chris Lafakis, a senior economist at Moody's Analytics [Evan Halper, "Keystone XL Pipeline May No Longer Make Economic Sense, Experts Say," Los Angeles Times, 2014.12.15].

With or without Keystone XL, our frackers will keep shipping their oil by rail. You'd think market demand would solve the problem of rail capacity—if oil is worth shipping, rail is worth building—but somehow, the oil and rail barons keep getting us to foot their bill:

States and the federal government have handed out tens of millions in public dollars to rail companies and government agencies to expand crude oil rail transportation across the country, a Reuters analysis has found.

The public assistance in states like New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Oklahoma and Oregon comes as railroads are posting record profits, and as state and federal authorities press for safety overhauls that the oil and rail industries have opposed, following several explosive derailments.

The Reuters analysis identified 10 federal and state grants either approved or pending approval, totaling $84.2 million, that helped boost the number of rail cars carrying crude oil across the nation [Jarrett Renshaw, "U.S. Taxpayers Help Fund Oil-Train Boom Amid Safety Concerns," Reuters via St. Louis Dispatch, 2014.12.14].

Alongside the steel for the rail and the pipeline, I smell irony in this conversation that NPR's Melissa Block had with Nebraska farm couple Chuck and Miriam Peterson. Keystone XL wouldn't cross their land, but it would cross their neighbors' a half-mile away. They support the pipeline, which will use eminent domain to take land rights from local landowners. But they get mad as heck when someone intrudes on their land:

BLOCK: Suddenly as we talk, Chuck Peterson gets up, goes to his garage and comes back with a sign. It’s covered with dust and cobwebs.

C. PETERSON: That was put on my grandparents’ farm. And I am pro-pipeline and I did not appreciate it being there.

BLOCK: The sign says Stop the TransCanada Pipeline. And when Chuck Peterson spotted it on his land, next to the road, his wife Miriam says he came home furious.

M. PETERSON: Well, Chuck came home and he said, this is the end, I’ve had it. And he said, nobody asked our permission, we don’t agree with that and people driving by will think we do because it was on our land. When someone tries to include you in their…

C. PETERSON: Agenda.

M. PETERSON: …Agenda, and you don’t agree or haven’t had a chance to even offer your opinion, it did feel personal.

BLOCK: Did you take the sign out right then?

M. PETERSON: We’re going to have a burning, but it’s still in the garage. (Laughter) [Melissa Block, "On Nebraska's Farmland, Keystone XL Pipeline Debate Is Personal," NPR via KMBH, 2014.12.16].

So close to understanding, yet so far....

8 comments

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