Sierra Club Testimony for U.S. Senate Foreign Affairs Committee Keystone XL National Interest Hearing


WEBWIRE – Thursday, March 13, 2014

Washington, D.C. -- Today, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune testified before the U.S. Senate Committee of Foreign Affairs regarding the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline national interest determination.

Brune’s written testimony is here.

Below are his verbal remarks:

Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Corker, members of the committee, it is an honor to appear before you today to discuss whether Keystone XL is in the national interest. I’m Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club.

The Sierra Club, and the more than two million people who submitted comments last week to the State Department, know this pipeline is not in our national interest. The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would cut through more than a thousand miles of American farms and ranches, carrying oil that is more toxic, corrosive, difficult to clean up, and more carbon intensive all the way to the Gulf, where most of the oil would be exported.

Like many of you, I am a parent, and I am deeply concerned about the world we are leaving for our children. One lesson my wife and I try to teach our kids is the need to set goals and remain focused as you strive to achieve them. Our country has a clear, science-based goal to limit climate pollution.  We must keep this in mind and recognize that achieving that goal, is incompatible with permitting this pipeline.

None of the scenarios in the State Department’s analysis show how Keystone XL could be built in a way that insures our nation can meet those climate goals. In fact, Keystone XL would significantly exacerbate climate pollution because it would increase the development of tar sands substantially. A report last week from Carbon Tracker found that Keystone XL would spur additional production of roughly 500,000 barrels per day, the emissions equivalent of building 46 new coal plants.

I would like to enter this report into the record today.

Although the climate impacts of tar sands are sufficient reason to reject this project, there are others:

Any spill from this pipeline could be catastrophic.

Transporting tar sands crude into the United States poses a heightened risk to communities and their air and water than conventional oil. Diluted bitumen is heavier and more toxic than conventional crude. When it spills in a waterway, it sinks. Just one tar sands oil spill in Michigan fouled more than 35 miles of river. After three and a half years and more than a billion dollars, that spill still has not been cleaned up. Take a look at this image from a neighborhood in Mayflower, Arkansas where an ExxonMobil pipeline ruptured, spilling more than 7,000 barrels of tar sands into resident’s backyards and driveways.  

Even without spills, the Keystone XL would risk the health and livelihood of communities living near each stage of the project. Petcoke is a byproduct of tar sands production, and its a major health hazard for U.S. communities. Fuel-grade petcoke contains high levels of toxins, including mercury, lead, arsenic, selenium, chromium, nickel, and vanadium. Huge petcoke piles from refining processes have begun to appear in cities like Chicago and Detroit.

Furthermore, Keystone XL would not even benefit American consumers.  

This oil is intended for export.

Keystone XL would deliver tar sands to refineries on the Gulf Coast that already export most of their refined product, have increased their exports nearly 200 percent in the past five years and are planning to increase these exports further in the future.

Keystone XL would also be be a threat to national security.

Because it would facilitate the development of one of the world’s most carbon intensive sources of oil, it is important to consider the impacts that these additional greenhouse gas emissions would have on people worldwide and America’s national security.

Since 2010, key national security reports have indicated that floods, droughts, and rising seas brought on by a destabilized climate in places of geostrategic importance to the U.S. multiply threats and risks for Americans working in those areas.

Climate disruption directly affects our armed forces. Admiral Samuel Locklear, head of the U.S. Military’s Pacific Command, believes the single greatest threat to his forces is the instability sparked by climate disruption.

Finally, clean energy will power a new American economy. Let’s not delay.

America is a land of innovators. Today the factories of Detroit, the laboratories of Silicon Valley, and the next generation of American consumers are already investing in and profiting from clean technology. Thanks to fuel-efficiency standards, gasoline demand in the U.S. is decreasing and projections show decreases through 2040 and beyond.

Investing in the clean energy economy is supported by  American businesses, workers, and all who care about clean air, water and a stable climate. That’s a win-win-win scenario. Compared this to Keystone XL, which jeopardizes our drinking water, farmland, climate, and health.  The sad truth is that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is all risk and no reward.

Secretary Kerry has called climate disruption “the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction,” and last week, he instructed all U.S. diplomats and employees around the world to “lead by example through strong action at home and abroad” to fight the climate crisis.  America can lead on climate, by saying no to this polluting pipeline, and saying yes to clean energy.

Thank you.

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