A Canadian Shuffle: Keystone or Energy East?

“North Dakota oil producers were scheduled to feed the Keystone pipeline with 100,000 barrels of crude oil per day.”   –Jack Dalrymple, in the Republican response to the President’s weekly radio address, March 10, 2012

The Keystone XL pipeline will move 830,000 barrels of oil a day, including 100,000 from North Dakota’s Bakken region.”   –Sen. John Hoeven, press release, September 19, 2014

“We anticipate about 100,000 barrels a day of North Dakota crude will be able to be placed into the Keystone pipeline.”   –Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, U.S. Senate floor speech, November 12, 2014

Stop it! Just STOP IT! IT’S NOT TRUE!

Senator Heidi Heitkamp is the latest of our elected officials to spread misinformation—either intentionally or unintentionally—about the Keystone XL Pipeline’s potential benefits to North Dakota. Like Hoeven and Dalrymple before her, she’s either careless with the facts or doesn’t care that what she says is not true.

You’re going to get sick and tired of hearing about Keystone for the next week or so, because both Democrats and Republicans in Washington are trying to use it as an election tool for a U.S. Senate seat in Louisiana. Heitkamp has taken up the cause to help out fellow Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu, who wants to take credit for bringing 830,000 barrels of crude oil per day into Landrieu’s home state through the Keystone Pipeline. Landrieu is in a runoff election with Republican Congressman Bill Cassidy in early December. So over in the House, they’ve got their own bill to help their colleague move to the Senate. If both the House and the Senate pass the bill, I can’t see how either one of them gets the credit, but there’s a lot about Washington I can’t see these days.

Heitkamp made an impassioned seven minute floor speech this week about the importance of the Keystone, not just to America, but to her home state of North Dakota. In order to sell that support to a somewhat puzzled audience back home—Keystone does not run through North Dakota—she  tossed the now long-discredited “100,000 barrels of North Dakota crude” into her speech.

That’s disappointing, because she knows better.

I thought we had put this to rest 2½ years ago, after critics, including this blogger, called Dalrymple on his false claim in his weekly radio address to America. As I wrote then, Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer negotiated a deal back in 2010 with TransCanada, the company building the pipeline, to allow 100,000 barrels of Bakken crude oil from North Dakota and Montana to enter the pipeline at an on-ramp in Baker, Montana.

The operative words there are “from North Dakota and Montana.” For the next couple of years, both Montana and North Dakota officials ran all over their states claiming that 100,000 barrels for themselves. No one in the media really challenged them on it. Mostly because, in spite of their rantings, the pipeline wasn’t moving forward. So nobody really cared what they had to say.

Hoeven came up with another cool number—we’ll get 500 trucks a day off North Dakota roads. Except that we won’t, because the on-ramp isn’t even in North Dakota, it’s in Montana. Baker, Montana, far away from any railroad connected to the Bakken, so even if they build a pipeline from somewhere in North Dakota to Baker, the oil still has to be trucked to a pipeline, either in Baker or a connector pipeline.

Lynn Helms, in his dual role as regulator/cheerleader for the state’s oil industry, went even farther, predicting that three to six fewer people would die on North Dakota’s highways every year if the Keystone Pipeline was built. Yeah, that would be good. Kinda hard to prove, but it would be good.

So the heat’s on in Washington in this lame-duck session to send a bill to the President to build the pipeline—a bill he will probably veto. But it might not matter. The issue may or may not help elect a Senator in Louisiana, but there might not even be a pipeline, in spite of the votes in Congress, even if the President signs the bill.

Because TransCanada got tired of waiting.

So, a week or so ago, the company filed an application with Canada’s main energy regulator seeking approval for a proposed 1.1 million-barrel-a-day pipeline, called Energy East.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the proposed pipeline would transport crude from Alberta and Saskatchewan to refineries and a marine terminal in Quebec, terminating in Saint John, New Brunswick. The same oil they were planning to ship south in the Keystone.

TransCanada says by building the pipeline in Canada, and keeping the oil in Canada instead of sending it south, there will be benefits to both eastern Canadian refineries and to Alberta crude producers, who have been facing steep challenges in getting their oil to market.

The project would convert an existing natural-gas pipeline to carry crude oil and provide outlets for the oil to be placed on ships. And Prime Minister Stephen Harper quickly approved it.  Harper doesn’t like President Obama much, so he’s grinning all the way to the gas station this week.

As for TransCanada, it’s full speed ahead on the $12 billion Energy East project. They’re not waiting. So what does that mean for the $7 billion Keystone, if the U.S. Congress and the President approve it? Well, it’s hard to imagine any company building two multi-billion dollar projects like this at the same time, especially when both are designed to haul the same product to market. That sounds pretty risky.

Some are saying that Energy East is the “death knell” for Keystone. Well, maybe.

But you won’t be hearing much about the Energy East Pipeline in Washington D.C. for the next week. Because the debate over Keystone is not really about building a pipeline that may or may not carry 100,000 barrels of Bakken crude. It’s about electing a U.S. Senator from Louisiana. Go figure.

4 thoughts on “A Canadian Shuffle: Keystone or Energy East?

  1. Good work, Jim. But I’m not so willing to give Heidi the “helping out Mary Landrieu” excuse for her support of the Keystone XL. She’s been for it all along, and was open and clear about that long before Mary Landrieu was standing for election.

    God save the planet. Heidi Heitkamp isn’t interested in helping out with that.


  2. I agree with Alice; Heitkamp is a republican in democratic clothing. She lost my support when she faulted on the gun issue concerning background checks.


  3. I agree with both comments. When I hear hard core Republicans talking up Heidi and the good job she’s done……..she lost mine and my wife’s vote.


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