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Pipeline paralysis


Rockies Today

November 18 · Issue #37 · View online
The big stories up and down the Rocky Mountains, curated by Mountain West News

Pipeline paralysis
CBC News’s Alexander Panetta reports on how, back in 2008, climate activists identified the perfect target: the Keystone XL pipeline. Eleven years later, the pipeline remains in limbo. Can activists claim victory?
How the American environmental movement dealt a blow to Alberta's oilpatch How the American environmental movement dealt a blow to Alberta's oilpatch
An organizer of the first big Washington protest against Keystone XL, Bill McKibben, said the conflict over that pipeline created a template for future challenges.
He described the broader strategic goal this way: drag out and delay fossil-fuel projects and make them more expensive while alternative energy gets cheaper.
“Nothing gets built for free anymore, without a lot of resistance,” said McKibben, founder of the group, who has more recently turned his focus to contesting banks that fund oil projects.
“Sometimes, we win those fights; sometimes, we lose them. But even when we lose them, if you delay these projects a year or two years or three years, that’s the time the engineers need to drop the cost of a solar panel or a wind turbine another 10, 15, 20 per cent. And the economics [for investing in oil] gets worse and worse and worse.”
It would be a wild exaggeration to say these activists have achieved all their goals.
Global emissions are up and show no sign of peaking as they continue to surge in China. U.S. oil production has more than doubled in several years.
Even Canadian oilsands production is up — it’s practically doubled over the past decade.
One Canadian pipeline project, Enbridge’s Line 3, is close to completion. The Trans Mountain expansion and Keystone XL are still in the works.
So, can international climate activists really claim to have put a dent in Canada’s oilsands?
“I don’t think they’re wrong at all,” said Andrew Leach, an energy economist at the University of Alberta. “It’s massive.… It’s made a huge difference.”
The tactics might arguably be ineffective as a policy to slow down climate change — but, he said, it’s impossible to deny the protests against Keystone XL helped restrain Canada’s pipeline capacity, and the shortage of capacity is one of several factors bedevilling the oilsands.
Alberta officials reject oil-sands stigma as Sweden dumps bonds
Living near the future pipeline
Land affected by Keystone pipeline leak bigger than thought
Montana lawmakers seek more time for Keystone XL public, tribal input
Respite on the range
Back in March the BLM began halting oil and gas leases after a judge ruled it hadn’t adequately assessed climate impacts. Then, last month, a judge stopped the rollback of sage grouse protections, forcing the BLM to suspend many more leases. Three stories on the BLM being forced to pump the breaks:
U.S. suspends more oil and gas leases over what could be a widespread problem U.S. suspends more oil and gas leases over what could be a widespread problem
This funny-looking bird is slowing down Trump's plans for oil development out West
BLM halts leases after sage grouse, climate legal brawls
The water gap
Many Native Americans can't get clean water, report finds Many Native Americans can't get clean water, report finds
For many people, turning on the tap or flushing the toilet is something we take for granted. But a report released Monday, called “Closing the Water Access Gap in the United States,” shows that more than 2 million Americans live without these conveniences and that Native Americans are more likely to have trouble accessing water than any other group.
Fifty-eight out of every 1,000 Native American households lack plumbing, compared with 3 out of every 1,000 white households, according to the report. This disparity has implications for public health. Native Americans experience more deaths, poverty and higher unemployment rates.
“We knew the problem was much bigger, but when we went out to look at the data, it didn’t exist,” said George McGraw, the founder of DigDeep, a nonprofit that has helped build water systems on the Navajo Nation. “No one could tell us, from federal to state agencies to other nonprofits, just how many Americans still don’t have running water or a working toilet where they live.”
So McGraw commissioned experts from around the U.S. to piece together the data they did have and come up with the water gap report. What he found was that race is the strongest predictor of water and sanitation access.
The woman who brings drinking water to remote Navajo homes
About DigDeep:
It took us 4 years to make this video.
Wolves on Colorado's ballot
What you need to know about a ballot effort to bring wolves back to Colorado What you need to know about a ballot effort to bring wolves back to Colorado
Over the next month, an army of volunteers will continue fanning across the state making sure they’ve gathered enough signatures to put a much-debated question on the November 2020 ballot: Should voters reintroduce gray wolves onto public lands in western Colorado where they once roamed but haven’t since the 1940s?
If volunteers successfully gather the necessary 124,632 signatures by Dec. 13, you could get a shot at deciding whether Colorado gets its wolves back along with whether to re-elect President Donald Trump or send a new U.S. senator to Washington. A group backing Initiative 107 says it already has enough signatures, but is gathering more just to be safe. 
If the question makes the ballot, it will be the first time voters anywhere in the nation will decide whether to reintroduce gray wolves. 
Backing this potential ballot measure is some serious money; the effort already has raked in nearly $1 million, with much of it flowing in from out of state. In a state with a growing rural-urban divide, the question pits wolf lovers and some environmental- and conservation-minded folks against some ranchers and sportsmen and opponents who decry “forced wolf introduction.” Others say Colorado, once part of the wolf’s native prowling range, is just not the same place it was when wolves prowled here. Colorado’s neighborhoods and cities are encroaching further into wild spaces, and demographers expect the state’s population to nearly double in the next 30 years.
More on the debate:
Colorado wolf reintroduction stokes fears, passions of ranchers, ecologists, sportsmen
Garfield County leaders join opposition to wolf proposal
Initiative 107 and the case for returning gray wolves to Colorado
More wildlife news:
Wyoming preps new migration corridor plans
Forest Service opposes bear-baiting ban in Idaho, Wyoming
This American caribou is the last of its kind—and it lives in Canada
A pile of coal news
The Navajo Nation won’t back a coal firm’s expansion into Wyoming. Here’s why. The Navajo Nation won’t back a coal firm’s expansion into Wyoming. Here’s why.
Blackjewel bankruptcy case far from over
For Colorado energy provider, the future of coal looks increasingly grim
Colstrip owner pushes closure past Christmas
Bay Area city might ban coal shipments, shutting down a key overseas export point for Utah mines
What else we're reading today
Tragic coda: Years after a triple murder gutted a family, one last death is mourned
Three Mountain West states don't have a traditional insanity defense. That could change soon.
GAO: 60% of Superfund sites at higher risk in climate change
Regulators stop sale of Montana mine waste `Bag O'Slag'
Reproductive health services lacking on Crow Reservation, study shows
Black Hills Energy ready to throw switch on new wind farm in southern Colorado
North Dakota’s record oil growth to be upended by flaring rules
Illegal pot farms on public land in California and Colorado create environmental hazard
Rockies Today is edited by Matthew Frank, Fellow in Regional Journalism at the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West at the University of Montana.
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O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana, 59812