Keystone XL Gets Approval For Alternate Path, But Still Faces Hard Truths
Monday’s announcement that the Keystone XL Pipeline can go forward is the latest piece of bad news for our climate. But the Nebraska PSC’s approval of an alternate route could mean the pipeline is far from a done deal.
Rebecca Leber’s latest piece for Mother Jones lays out some of the hurdles still in the way for KXL, including the new round of permits required. But most importantly, Leber writes, “the biggest challenges ahead for TransCanada may be economic.” In the time since KXL was first proposed nearly a decade ago, Leber explains, “gas has flooded the market and oil prices have come down.” Since the glut of low-priced gas has reduced the need for a new oil pipeline, it’s possible TransCanada might not even go forward with KXL.
And as Esquire’s Charles Pierce points out, the new PSC-approved route goes over the land of 40 people who have not yet agreed to put a pipeline on their land. That’s potentially 40 new eminent domain cases TransCanada faces. Pierce thinks “it’s two more years, minimum, before TransCanada even gets a chance to uncrate its shovels.”
No doubt that those two years will be busy for the activists opposed to the pipeline to continue their work. Activism will undoubtedly move forward in the local, on-the-ground action as well as the social media sharing, amplification and community building that happens online. While the latter often gets short shrift, it shouldn’t be, according to new research.
A paper published in Oxford Research Encyclopedias earlier this year tracked the ascendance of online advocacy, pointing to a handful of groups who have capitalized on this new form of activism. Key among them are 350.org and the Keep It In The Ground movement, both of which have been crucial in keeping KXL at bay. By bringing together a diverse and global audience into what are ostensibly local fights, these groups have found a new way to build support for environmental issues.
That said, action at the local level is still crucial. With a smart and engaged citizenry, local laws can be leveraged to keep fossil fuel infrastructure away. Natasha Geiling wrote a feature for Think Progress last week that demonstrates local power at work in the Pacific Northwest. Geiling’s piece focuses on the “Thin Green Line,” a loose coalition of local groups acting independently towards a common goal: making sure there won’t be new fossil fuel infrastructures in their communities.
Going beyond just fighting when companies request permits, Geiling explains that activists have begun (successfully) advocating for new zoning regulations to prevent any new fossil fuel projects in the future. Because the area is a hotspot for gas exports, it’s a bottleneck for the gas shipping, which gives local residents a significant leverage point in an otherwise complex export system.
Now, rural Nebraska is hardly Portland in terms of support for anti-fossil fuel policies. But local activists in Nebraska like Jane Kleeb have spent years on and off-line building a diverse coalition of pipeline opposition. With dwindling economic prospects and yet another round of permitting and lawsuits facing KXL’s new alternate route, the facts are not in TransCanada’s favor.
Though we should still be wary, because perhaps they’ll find some alternative facts for their alternate pipeline path…
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(Originally appeared at DailyKos.)