Lawsuit Filed to Block Pipeline Project

Less than two weeks after the State Department gave the go-ahead for a major new pipeline to carry Alberta oil sands crude into the United States, a network of environmental and Native American groups filed a lawsuit to stop it.

blogSpan 300x212 Lawsuit Filed to Block Pipeline ProjectThe suit, filed today in United States District Court in San Francisco, accuses President Obama’s administration of significantly accelerating the importation of “dirty oil” from Alberta.

“This seems to be a step backward,” said Sarah Burt, a lawyer for Earthjustice, a group that brought the suit and is based in Oakland, Calif. Ms. Burt said the new pipeline infrastructure would “lock in” American consumption of bitumen for another fifty years, though the administration had pushed to promote clean energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2008, the United States imported 1.5 billion million barrels a day of Canadian bitumen, and that figure is expected to grow to 4.3 billion million by 2030, according to the State Department’s record of decision (PDF).

The project, Alberta Clipper, from the pipeline giant Enbridge, Ms. Burt said, will stoke demand and thus push up the heavy emission levels associated with oil sands mining and processing.

The coalition’s lawyers argue that by granting the permit, the American government breached the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to “take a hard look” at the Alberta Clipper’s purpose or to comprehensively assess a related project’s environmental impact, especially in terms of air and water pollution in the Midwest.

The Enbridge pipeline will be 36 inches in diameter and twinned with a northbound line known as Southern Lights, carrying diluents up to Alberta refineries to help refine the bitumen.

The groups also state that the $8 billion project will inflict short- and long-term damage on forests, wetlands and water bodies in the path of the pipeline.

With a daily capacity of 450,000 barrels of bitumen, the Alberta Clipper will extend more than 990 miles between Hardisty, Alberta, to a terminal in Superior, Wisc., where it will join a pipeline to Chicago. The Southern Lights pipeline will travel about 700 miles north from Illinois, where it will join with another line heading to Alberta.

News of the suit comes on the same day that construction crews broke ground on the first leg of the Clipper project, near Duluth, Minn.

“More than 3,000 construction workers, many of them skilled union tradesmen, will be on the job over the next year, including welders making more than 40,000 pipe connections,” The Duluth News Tribune reported today.

“The new Minnesota Twins stadium, by comparison,” the article added, “had about the same number of workers but is about one-third the cost of the pipeline.”

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  1. George Says:

    God forbid we give 3000 people jobs when a fish might be in danger.

  2. Paul Says:

    so now that anthropogenic global warming has been thoroughly discredited, debunked, and ran through the mud, how long until we can stop hearing about people giving a damn about carbon emissions?

    not that im saying this pipeline project isn’t a possible environmental problem, i dont know enough about it honestly.


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