Enbridge, Keystone XL, and Dakota Access pipelines will face intense opposition after Biden inauguration

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      On July 25, 2010, a 12-metre portion of Enbridge pipe ruptured, creating one of the largest oil spills in the continental United States.

      Nearly four million barrels of diluted bitumen poured into a tributary of the Kalamazoo River in Michigan, keeping part of this waterway closed for a year.

      The Michigan governor at the time, Jennifer Granholm, flew over the mess, smelling the foul oil from the air. She described Enbridge's response as "anemic".

      A decade later, Joe Biden named Granholm as his secretary of energy, pending confirmation by the U.S. Senate.

      Today, Enbridge, which is based in Calgary, is in the midst of its developing its largest project in the company's history—a $9-billion, 1,660-kilometre pipeline from Alberta to Wisconsin.

      But Enbridge still needs to cross some hurdles in the United States to get it built.

      And Granholm is a key player in the debate, as is Biden's national climate adviser, Gina McCarthy, who's most recently been president and CEO of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

      "While the project is touted by Enbridge as being beneficial for Minnesota and surrounding states, reality is far different," the NDRC's Josh Axelrod stated back in 2018.

      Then there's Calgary-based TC Energy's $10-billion Keystone XL project.

      It's slated to ship 830,000 barrels per day through a 1,947-kilometre pipeline from Alberta to Nebraska.

      Meanwhile, the Dakota Access pipeline is expected to transport shale oil 1,886 kilometres from North Dakota to Illinois. It will cost US$3.78 billion.

      Enbridge's 2010 spill left an oily film in an important waterway.

      What's a new president to do?

      The multibillion-dollar question is whether the Biden administration will do anything to stop this new fossil-fuel infrastructure.

      In a Georgia Straight cover story this week, 350.org senior communications specialist Lindsay Meiman told the Straight that Biden has already committed to stop the Keystone XL project. It's supported by the Canadian government.

      But what about Line 3 and the Dakota Access pipelines? Line 3 has received a green light from the Trudeau government.

      Meiman maintained that no fossil-fuel project will pass any sort of meaningful test.

      "We don’t have the time to be playing whack-a-mole with pipelines," she added.

      Later in the interview, Meiman acknowledged that Biden has the most ambitious climate plan of any major party presidential nominee in U.S. history.

      "But to be the most ambitious climate president, Joe Biden needs to  actually implement a climate test, to stop...federal permitting and projects," she said. "We know none of them are aligned with the Paris Agreement, which is nowhere near enough at this point."

      The Paris Agreement was adopted in 2015 and aims to limit the the global average temperature increase to 1.5°  C above where it stood at the start of the Industrial Revolution.

      And who played a leading role in the negotiations?

      None other than John Kerry—Biden's newly appointed climate envoy—when he was secretary of state in the Obama administration.

      Video: Part 1 of a YouTube series called Climate Emergency: Feedback Loops explains tipping points in the climate system.

      Climate wish list for the president-elect

      Meiman's group, 350.org, has listed 10 "essential climate actions the next president can take without Congress":

      1. Declare a national climate emergency under the National Emergencies Act.

      2. Keep fossil fuels in the ground.

      3. Stop fossil fuel exports and infrastructure approvals.

      4. Shift financial flows from fossil fuels to climate solutions.

      5. Use the Clean Air Act to set a science-based national pollution cap for greenhouse pollutants. Then, use all Clean Air Act programs to drive emissions toward zero economy-wide.

      6. Power the electricity sector with 100% clean and renewable energy by 2030 and promote energy democracy.

      7. Launch a just transition to protect our communities, workers, and economy.

      8. Advance Climate Justice: Direct federal agencies to assess and mitigate environmental harms to disproportionately impacted Indigenous Peoples, Peopl and Communities of Color, and low-wealth communities.

      9. Make polluters pay: Investigate and prosecute fossil fuel polluters for the damages they have caused. Comit to veto all legislation that grants legal immunity for polluters, undermines existing environmental laws, or advances false solutions.

      10. Rejoin the Paris Agreement and lead with science-based comitments that ensure the United States, as the world's largest cumulative polluter, contributes its fair share and advances climate justice.

      (350.org elaborates on each 10 actions on its website.)

      "Any elected official anywhere has a really powerful climate-justice movement to contend with," Meiman said. "There’s no time to lose."

      Video: UN Climate Change explains the Paris Agreement.
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