“North America is becoming the new Middle East. The only thing that can stop this is politics — environmentalists getting the upper hand over supply in the U.S., for instance; or First Nations impeding pipeline expansion in Canada…”
— Citigroup Global Perspectives & Solutions, March 2012
Graphic by Mikael Tarkela
KEYSTONE XL PIPELINE
Three hundred billion barrels of tar sands oil lie beneath the dense forests of northern
Alberta. The Keystone XL Pipeline is designed to bring 830,000 barrels per day of tar sands slurry to the refineries of the Texas Gulf Coast and then ship the finished product to global markets. The northern leg that is planned to run down through the Great Plains has been stalled for now by environmental protests. The southern leg of the pipeline is currently being built from Cushing, Okla. to Port Arthur, Texas.
KITIMAT, BRITISH COLUMBIA
The proposed Northern Gateway pipeline would bring tar sands slurry to Canada’s west coast for export to Asia. Opposition from First Nations people and other locals has been fierce as an oil tanker spill could ruin some of the most ecologically pristine coastline in the world.
COASTS OF OREGON AND WASHINGTON
Energy companies are looking to build a chain of coal export terminals to handle supplies coming from the Powder River Basin. Building coal ports involves dredging waterways or filling in wetlands, which causes damage to sensitive ecosystems. Dust from piles of coal waiting for export would pollute nearby communities, while making the area less attractive to other businesses.
WYOMING, EASTERN MONTANA
The Powder River Basin supplies 40 percent of U.S. coal and 14 percent of carbon emissions. In 2011, the feds opened 14 million more acres in the region to coal production over the objections of local ranchers. Much of the coal will be shipped by train to West Coast ports. and exported to Asia.
State officials recently approved opening the first-ever tar sands mine on U.S. soil in the pristine wilderness of southern Utah. The nearly 6,000 acres covered by the ruling are a small fraction of the 232,000 acres open to tar sands mining in Utah. Mining run-off could drain into the Colorado River, which serves 30 million people across several southwestern states.
NORTH COAST OF ALASKA
The oil industry is eyeing a new frontier as Arctic sea ice shrinks to all-time lows. Leading the way is Shell Oil, which hoped to begin test drilling this summer but was thwarted when its spill-containment equipment failed routine safety tests. The company will try again in 2013 even as environmentalists warn of the dangers posed by drilling in the Arctic Ocean.
GOLDEN PASS, TEXAS
ExxonMobil and Qatar Petroleum International are building a giant liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility that will handle 15.6 million tons of annual liquification capacity. With 15 more proposed LNG export centers under government review, the United States could soon become the world’s second largest natural gas exporter. Liquified natural gas is highly flammable.
Fracking in North Dakota’s Bakken Fields has ignited an oil boom that has made the state the second largest producer in the Lower 48 after Texas. However, salty, chemical-laden wastewater from fracking has wiped
out aquatic life in streams and wetlands.
SOUTHERN NEW YORK
Natural gas companies seeking vast deposits of natural gas that lie below ground in the Marcellus Shale of southern New York have met fierce local opposition throughout the region. Those deposits can only be accessed by hydro-fracking, a process that utilizes a toxic stew of chemicals that can poison the local water supply and which causes the
release of the radioactive gas radon.
A corroded Enbridge oil pipeline burst in 2010, leaving a million gallons of heavy tar sands slurry at the bottom of the Kalamazoo River, the worst inland oil spill in U.S. history. The Alberta-based Enbridge is slated to build a tar sands pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast that is larger than the
notorious Keystone XL Pipeline.
Environmentalists suspect that energy
giant ExxonMobil is looking to repurpose an existing regional pipeline to transport tar sands slurry from Canada, across northern New England to Portland, Maine to then be shipped to global markets.
NEW YORK CITY
New York City is slated for two high-pressure natural gas pipelines bringing in fracked natural gas from the Marcellus Shale. One pipeline extension is currently under construction in the West Village. The pipeline slated for the Rockaways will
tunnel under Jamaica Bay and Jacob Riis Park to Floyd Bennett Field — the very areas that were devastated by Sandy — and then on to Brooklyn.
According to state regulators, the Youngstown, Ohio area suffered a dozen small earthquakes in 2011 due to wastewater from hydro-fracking being injected back
into the ground too forcefully.
Leaders of both political parties in Virginia are pressing the feds to overturn a long-
standing moratorium on off-shore drilling to allow exploration to begin off their coast. If tests are successful, offshore oil and gas wells could eventually sprout up from
Florida to New Jersey.
Coal is the dirtiest fossil fuel in terms of carbon dioxide emissions. Mining companies in five Appalachian states often go at seams of coal by blasting the tops off of 300-million year-old mountains and dumping the debris
in nearby streams and valleys.
Pennsylvania’s booming natural gas industry faces little regulation while locals pay the price with high levels of sinus and respiratory problems linked to chemicals used in
the hydro-fracking process.
BIG CYPRESS NATIONAL PRESERVE, FLORIDA
Located in southern Florida’s Everglades, the 720,000-acre Big Cypress is one of 12 national parks that have oil and gas operations within them. Thirty more national park sites that could be at risk as energy companies seek to do away with federal oversight of drilling on public lands in favor of more lax state regulations.
GULF OF MEXICO
BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig was drilling thousands of feet beneath the sea floor when it blew up in April 2010, killing 11 workers and spewing an estimated 200 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Eighteen months later, BP received permission to
renew deep-sea drilling in he Gulf.
SOURCES: NEW YORK TIMES, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS, INSIDE CLIMATE NEWS, US NEWS, GULF TIMES, OHIO DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES, VERMONT LAW, EARTHWORKS OIL & GAS ACCOUNTABILITY PROJECT, COAL EXPORT ACTION, COALITION AGAINST THE ROCKAWAY PIPELINE, NYULOCAL.COM, EARTHJUSTICE.ORG.