The Alberta oil sands project in Canada is so highly polluting that it has been dubbed "the most destructive project on Earth." If the oil sands project was its own nation, it would emit more carbon dioxide than 145 other countries; only 62 nations on Earth emit more than this single project, which squeezes oil out of tarry sand.
So U.S. environmental groups, along with Native American allies, had been hopeful that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would reject the permits required for Canadian-based Enbridge Energy to build its 1,000-mile Alberta Clipper pipeline from the Alberta oil sands to Wisconsin, in the oil-addicted U.S. No dice. The approval came down late Thursday, with the message that the bad economy makes denying economic development a bad idea, no matter how filthy that economic development is, or at what price it costs our climate. (In return, you might say, the U.S. will be able to export hazardous liquids on another new pipeline, also approved Thursday, the Southern Lights pipeline.) In other words, it flies in the face of the Obama Administration's push toward clean, green energy as the economic driver of the 21st century. (Enbridge does have a history of spills and environmental violations from its existing pipeline network, according to Wikipedia.)
Several environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and Earthjustice, plan to sue in an effort to reverse the decision.
"The State Department has rubber-stamped a project that will mean more air, water and global warming pollution, particularly in the communities near refineries that will process this dirty oil," said Earthjustice attorney Sarah Burt. "The project's environmental review fails to show how construction of the Alberta Clipper is in the national interest. We will go to court to make sure that all the impacts of this pipeline are considered."
Several groups involved are also petitioning the Forest Service to reverse its decision allowing the pipeline to traverse parts of the Chippewa National Forest in Minnesota.
Earthjustice calls the Alberta oil sands an "environmental catastrophe, with toxic tailings ponds so large they can be seen from space and plans to strip away the forests and peat lands in an area the size of Florida. In addition, greenhouse gas emissions from tar sands production are three times that of conventional crude oil and tar sands oil contains 11 times more sulfur and nickel, six times more nitrogen and five times more lead than conventional oil. These toxins are released into the U.S. air and water when the crude oil is processed into fuels by refineries."
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