Taking the DoS to Court for KXL Route

Yesterday I joined with the Center for Biological Diversity to sue the Department of State for the Keystone XL GIS data, as well as the contracts with private consultants who prepared the environmental impact reports. My FOIA cases with the DoS have been pending for over five years and have never received proper consideration.

The official PR release can be found online:
http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/press_releases/2017/keystone-xl-pipeline-05-18-2017.php

For Immediate Release, May 18, 2017
Contact: Amy Atwood, (503) 504-5660, atwood@biologicaldiversity.org
Thomas Bachand, (510) 547-8622, keystone@steamingmules.com

Lawsuit Demands Keystone Pipeline’s Route, State Department Contracts

Feds Denying Public Information Needed to Evaluate Oil Pipeline’s Full Impacts

WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity and Thomas Bachand filed suit today against the U.S. Department of State to obtain information on the route of the Keystone XL Pipeline, as well as contracts and correspondence with private consultants involved.

The State Department is required to make public information about the route of the pipeline and related documents under the Freedom of Information Act.

“We can’t fully understand Keystone XL’s threats to our water and wildlife until the Trump administration releases public documents about this dangerous pipeline’s route,” said Amy Atwood, the Center’s endangered species legal director. “With the State Department illegally refusing to provide information about a leak-prone pipeline that could pollute hundreds of waterways, we’re left with no option but to sue.”

Today’s suit was filed in federal court in Washington, D.C. on behalf of the Center, which has advocated against the Keystone XL Pipeline for years, and Thomas Bachand. Bachand is the creator of the Keystone Mapping Project, an internationally recognized online multimedia and photography project that examines land use, climate policy and transparency through an exploration of the Keystone Pipeline, the 2,000-mile diluted bitumen pipeline that would bisect the North American Continent.

The lawsuit demands that the State Department provide specific kinds of records — known as geographic information systems, GIS layers or Shape files — that would reveal precisely where the Keystone XL Pipeline route would go, if constructed. The suit also demands correspondence and contracts the State Department signed with private consultants who prepared the environmental reviews for the pipeline.

“The Keystone XL GIS data is referenced tens of thousands of times in the State Department’s environmental review, yet the data itself is fully redacted,” said Thomas Bachand. “State Department officials claim they do not have the data, but if that’s the case then how can they have possibly considered its environmental consequences? The truth is that the State Department unquestionably possesses and controls this critical information.”

By revealing the precise pipeline route, the GIS layers will clearly show the habitats, private lands, farms, prairies, aquifers, rivers, streams and other sensitive places where the pipeline would be built. The contracts with private entities the State Department hired to prepare environmental reviews for the project will help shed light on the circumstances related to the State Department’s refusal to provide the GIS data.

The plaintiffs are represented in the lawsuit by public interest attorney David A. Bahr.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.3 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

IL FOIA – Map Update: Dakota Access Discharge Wells

With the public release of the Illinois Dakota Access Water Pollution Control Permit, additional Dakota Access pipeline route data has now become available. Added to the route data are Illinois hydrostatic test water discharge locations. More information on these discharge locations can be found in the IL-EPA Water Pollution Control Permit. Below please find a link to the updated Dakota Access Pipeline route map, as well as the IL-EPA Water Pollution Control Permit.

Meanwhile, efforts to obtain route information from the state of North Dakota have been exhausted and have not yielding any route data.

The Dakota Access Pipeline is a proposed pipeline running from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois. Dakota Access, a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners and Phillips 66, received Federal approval for the project in the form of a Nationwide Permit 12 from the United States Army Corp of Engineers (USACE) in July of 2016. Eminent domain lawsuits have slowed state approvals.

On September 9, 2016, the Department of Justice, the Department of the Army and the Department of the Interior released a joint statement regarding the court case Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, effectively halting construction at Lake Oahe, on the Missouri River in North Dakota. The statement reads:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Friday, September 9, 2016

Joint Statement from the Department of Justice, the Department of the Army and the Department of the Interior Regarding Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The Department of Justice, the Department of the Army and the Department of the Interior issued the following statement regarding Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers:

“We appreciate the District Court’s opinion on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act.  However, important issues raised by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other tribal nations and their members regarding the Dakota Access pipeline specifically, and pipeline-related decision-making generally, remain.  Therefore, the Department of the Army, the Department of Justice, and the Department of the Interior will take the following steps.

“The Army will not authorize constructing the Dakota Access pipeline on Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe until it can determine whether it will need to reconsider any of its previous decisions regarding the Lake Oahe site under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or other federal laws.  Therefore, construction of the pipeline on Army Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe will not go forward at this time.  The Army will move expeditiously to make this determination, as everyone involved — including the pipeline company and its workers — deserves a clear and timely resolution.  In the interim, we request that the pipeline company voluntarily pause all construction activity within 20 miles east or west of Lake Oahe.

“Furthermore, this case has highlighted the need for a serious discussion on whether there should be nationwide reform with respect to considering tribes’ views on these types of infrastructure projects.  Therefore, this fall, we will invite tribes to formal, government-to-government consultations on two questions:  (1) within the existing statutory framework, what should the federal government do to better ensure meaningful tribal input into infrastructure-related reviews and decisions and the protection of tribal lands, resources, and treaty rights; and (2) should new legislation be proposed to Congress to alter that statutory framework and promote those goals.

“Finally, we fully support the rights of all Americans to assemble and speak freely.  We urge everyone involved in protest or pipeline activities to adhere to the principles of nonviolence.  Of course, anyone who commits violent or destructive acts may face criminal sanctions from federal, tribal, state, or local authorities.  The Departments of Justice and the Interior will continue to deploy resources to North Dakota to help state, local, and tribal authorities, and the communities they serve, better communicate, defuse tensions, support peaceful protest, and maintain public safety. 

“In recent days, we have seen thousands of demonstrators come together peacefully, with support from scores of sovereign tribal governments, to exercise their First Amendment rights and to voice heartfelt concerns about the environment and historic, sacred sites.  It is now incumbent on all of us to develop a path forward that serves the broadest public interest.”

16-1034
Office of Public Affairs

Website and maps Copyright Thomas Bachand 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Map: Dakota Access Pipeline SD-IL

UPDATE 11.17.16: This post has been updated to reflect changes in the KMP DAPL route map, as sourced from official route data. It now includes Illinois discharge wells. Also included is a link to the Illinois EPA Water Pollution Control Permit, obtained by FOIA request. All KMP maps are available in KML format for viewing in Google Earth.
————————————-

Crossing the Keystone Pipeline in South Dakota is the Dakota Access Pipeline, a proposed pipeline running from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois. Dakota Access, a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners and Phillips 66, received Federal approval in the form of a Nationwide Permit 12 from the United States Army Corp of Engineers (USACE) in July of 2016. Eminent domain lawsuits have slowed state approvals. The below Google Earth view shows the official segments running through South Dakota and Iowa, with discharge wells included for Illinois (A complete ND-SD-IA-IL route drawn from hard copy maps in the Environmental Assessment and permit application can be found here).

Website and maps Copyright Thomas Bachand 2016. All Rights Reserved.

FOIA Update: Clinton Emails Delay ALL DoS FOIA Requests

As an addendum to my December post chronicling the latest delay in my five-year FOIA saga with the Department of State (DoS), the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) has informed me that the DoS has pushed their estimated response dates back six months to May and July of this year. The OGIS is the governmental body tasked with overseeing FOIA compliance and whose mission it is to resolve disputes between government agencies and requesters.

As readers of this blog know, my FOIA requests for the Keystone XL pipeline milepost data began in 2011. Initially the DoS claimed not to have the data, only to later say that the data did not belong to them. The DoS obviously knows where the milepost data is as it is referenced tens of thousands of times in their environmental impact statements and is required in order to interpret their analysis. We know that the records belong to the DoS because the Keystone XL Master Service Agreement with ERM says so. We also know that the Keystone XL data is in the public domain as Keystone routing data has been made public by the states crossed by the pipeline. The route is also visible on Google Earth.

According to the OGIS:

OGIS’s Mediation Team Lead was able to get a new estimated date of completion for your two FOIA requests. Unfortunately, State Dept. is overwhelmed with the several FOIA lawsuits concerning the former Secretary Clinton’s emails which has resulted in many cases that State had estimated to work and complete by December fall back into their backlog queue.

While it is helpful that OGIS has obtained the status of my FOIA requests from the DoS, I have suggested to them that, considering the DoS’ record of obfuscation and delay, a substantial conversation with the DoS is certainly in order.

It was in 2011, under Secretary Clinton’s tenure at the DoS, that my FOIA adventure began. Secretary Clinton was initially a proponent of the Keystone XL — until September of last year when she declared it a distraction. President Obama rejected TransCanada’s cross-border Keystone XL application shortly thereafter in November of 2015.

Meanwhile, TransCanada has filed two lawsuits for $15 Billion against the United States under provisions in the NAFTA Treaty.

Map: Kansas Confidential

With the mapping of the estimated route of the Kansas leg of the Keystone XL, the Keystone Mapping Project (KMP) is able to offer a complete interactive map of the entire U.S. Keystone XL route from the Canadian border to the Gulf of Mexico.

Download: Keystone XL Kansas Cushing Extension (274 kb) »»

Keystone Cushing Extension. Chapman, Kansas.The Kansas leg of the Keystone XL is officially known as the Keystone-Cushing Extension. The Cushing Extension was completed in February of 2011 as Phase Two of the larger Keystone Pipeline project. Extending 300 miles from Steele City, Nebraska to Cushing, Oklahoma, the Cushing Extension was designed to connect two pipelines from Hardisty, Alberta – the Keystone and the Keystone XL – to Gulf Coast pipelines terminating at oil refineries in Houston and Port Arthur, Texas. The Keystone XL itself was Phase Three of the larger Keystone Pipeline project and originally consisted of two pipelines, the first beginning at Hardisty, Alberta, running through Morgan and Baker, Montana, and meeting the Cushing Extension at Steele City, Nebraska, and the second traveling south from the Cushing Extension in Kansas to Gulf Coast refineries. The Gulf Coast pipelines were later spun off as a separate phase, the Gulf Coast Extension. Only the Keystone XL Pipeline (now Phase Four) from the Canadian border to Steele City, Nebraska remains unbuilt.

With the aid of publicly available aerial photography I have approximated the Cushing Extension route, thereby completing the mapping of the entire Keystone XL Pipeline route from the Canadian-Montana border to Port Arthur, Texas. I am presenting this map on the KMP as a separate add-on map as the Cushing Extension was never part of the Keystone XL environmental reports as commissioned by the Department of State (DoS), including the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), the Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS), and the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (FSEIS). These reports and their lack of essential mapping data are the primary focus of the KMP’s mapping efforts. Unlike the other maps that comprise this project, the Cushing Extension map remains unofficial as it was not sourced from state, Federal, or company documentation.

For Kansans concerned about the particular hazards posed by the transport of tar sands oil, also known as diluted bitumen, the orphaned EIS status of the Cushing Extension remains controversial. This route was not subject to the same level of environmental review as either of the two larger pipeline projects that it is part of – the Keystone and the Keystone XL.

To some degree, all the maps posted on this site are,in effect, unofficial as it cannot be confirmed if their milepost marker data is the same as referenced in the FEIS, SEIS, and FSEIS. This means that the KMP maps, while the most complete Keystone XL maps available to the public, cannot be correlated with the DoS’ official environmental impact reports and, thus, the reports cannot be properly evaluated for environmental impacts.

Download: Keystone XL Kansas Cushing Extension (274 kb) »»

Dept of State Parses “all” to Avoid Keystone Disclosure

In a startling display of regulatory capture, the Department of State (DoS) revealed that its refusal to release data essential to the reading of its Keystone XL environmental reports is based on a bizarre interpretation of a phrase in a 3rd party contract. Their conclusion that the Keystone XL mapping data contained in their reports is not their property and, thus, cannot be shared with the public, comes from its own narrow interpretation of a contract between TransCanada and ERM, the firm tasked with writing the reports, and not from any explicit agreement with TransCanada.

As you may recall, in May of this year, after two years of delay, the DoS denied my Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the Keystone XL mapping data saying that the data was not an “agency record” (read “Dept of State Defers to TransCanada“). I appealed the matter to the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS), the governmental agency tasked with assuring compliance with FOIA. After discussing the matter with DoS, OGIS stated in their letter of denial to me that:

TransCanada made its intention clear that it retained all rights to
that data and placed limitations on its use.

The Master Service Agreement entered into between TransCanada and ERM for purposes of the NEPA review contains a provision that reads as follows:

“All original drawings, plans, specifications, calculations, sketches, designs, reports, files (electronic or otherwise), records and other documents regardless of the media or means of storage and access thereto (“Records”) developed by, through or for the Contractor pursuant to this Contract or any Change Order shall be the absolute property of the DOS.”

According to Ms. Manheim, this provision does not establish State Department control over the information in question. The GIS mapping data you seek was developed by TransCanada for its own use. Although the data was made available to ERM for the purpose of ERM’s NEPA review, this data was not “developed by, through or for the Contractor.” As such, it is State’s position that the records you seek do not fall within the ambit of this provision.

In my reply to the OGIS, I felt compelled to define the word “all” before pointing out the self-contradiction in the DoS position:


Clearly, the GIS data were ‘developed by, through or for the Contractor,’ because without the data, the Contractor would have been unable to perform their contracted NEPA review, just as the public has been unable to review the FEIS, SEIS, and FSEIS without the data. It is disingenuous at best for TransCanada and DoS to claim they are going to build, operate, and regulate a pipeline according to federal and state law without telling the public where it is. The only goal achieved by TransCanada, ERM, and DoS in not releasing the GIS data is that evaluation of the project’s FEIS, SEIS, and FSEIS is made impossible. Certainly, such obfuscation is not compliant with FOIA and defeats the whole purpose of the public comment period.

As the third-party agreement between TransCanada and ERM is the only agreement DoS can point to, the determination that “TransCanada made its intention clear…” was made solely through misinterpreting the clause “developed by, through or for the Contractor.” By reading the clause as exclusive instead of inclusive and by parsing “all” to mean something other than all, the DoS effectively absolves itself of any regulatory oversight of anything contained in their reports.

The OGIS letter of denial:
KMP OGIS letter, page 1
KMP OGIS letter, page 2
My full response to the OGIS:
KMP OGIS letter, page 1
KMP OGIS letter, page 2
KMP OGIS letter, page 4

Full text:

Dear Ms. Nisbet,

Thank you for your review of the Department of State’s (DoS) denial of my FOIA request F-2012-25735. The DoS response to your inquiry is unsupported and contradictory and suggests that the DoS remains out of compliance with FOIA.

Your letter states that

…TransCanada did make certain Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data available to State while it was conducting a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review, the corporation placed limits on the use of that data; it is State’s position that the records you seek cannot be considered “agency records.

TransCanada and the DoS seem to have an agreement surrounding the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, yet, the agreement and to what extent it relies on third party agreements between TransCanada and its contractors is unknown. So while the DoS claims the GIS data is not an “agency record” per an agreement with TransCanada, we have not seen this agreement nor, perhaps, other agreements that might define “agency record.” These agreements are the subject of my current FOIA F-2014-16267.

The one agreement we do know of is that between TransCanada and ERM, the firm that produced the Keystone XL Pipeline Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (FSEIS).

TransCanada – ERM Master Services Agreement

The Master Services Agreement (MSA) between TransCanada and ERM states under Section 2g that:

Confidential Information does not include information that is: (ii) generally known to the public, as of the date and to the extent that such information becomes so generally known;

As your letter also cites, the MSA also states under Section 24.1 that:

All original drawings, plans, specifications, calculations, sketches, designs, reports, files (electronic or otherwise), records and other documents regardless of the media or means of storage and access thereto (“Records”) developed by, through or for the Third-Party Contractor pursuant to this Contract or any Change Order shall be the absolute property of the Department.

Keystone XL Pipeline Route Data is Public Information

The proposed Keystone XL Pipeline route is not confidential and qualifies under the MSA as generally known to the public. Basic route information has been made public by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), the South Dakota Public Utility Commission (SDPUC), the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ), and the Railroad Commission of Texas (TxRRC). The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) both consider pipeline routing data to be in the public domain. Once constructed, the route will be marked in the ground with stakes and will be visible everywhere in the world via Google Earth. The United States Army Corps of Engineers and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service have both released Keystone GIS data to the public. Clearly, the Keystone route is generally known to the public and is not intended, by either state or federal regulators, to be kept secret from the public.

Essential Data, by definition, is an Agency Record

The MSA is very clear when it states that “All original drawings, plans, specifications…” are agency records. “All” means all – everything used by the contractor to create the report. The phrase “developed by, through or for the Third-Party Contractor,” augments “all” and is intending to include documents, not exclude them. If the data is integral to the creation of the report, referenced throughout the report, included in the report, and essential to the reading of the report, it is part of the report and, as such, an agency record.

The GIS mapping and route data is intended to be included directly in the environmental reports issued by the DoS, including the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS), and Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (FSEIS). For example, in the 2008 Keystone XL FEIS:

  • Volume 1, Environmental Reports. Section 3: Affected Environments: This section contains 23 tables referencing thousands of milepost markers and/or waterbodies and distances based upon them, yet no where in the report are the actual longitude and latitude of the milepost markers given.
  • Volume 2, Pipeline Aerial Route Sheets: This section contains over 1,000 maps, yet all have had their geolocation information removed, including longitude and latitude, rendering them meaningless as maps.
  • Volume 3, Powerline USGS and Aerial Route Sheets: This section contains approximately 120 USGS topographic maps containing references to Keystone XL milepost markers. The maps have had their geolocation information removed, including longitude and latitude, rendering them meaningless.
  • Volume 4, USGS Location Pipeline Route Sheets: This section contains approximately 400 USGS topographic maps containing references to Keystone XL milepost markers. The maps have had their geolocation information removed, including longitude and latitude, rendering them meaningless.
  • Volume 5, Waterbody Crossings: This section contains hundreds of tables listing nearly 10,000 waterbody crossings, none of which are geolocated.

By no means is this a complete list of the documents containing incomplete and missing GIS references. The cited volumes appear to be incomplete and most of the volumes (Vol 6-18?) appear to be missing altogether. The subsequent Draft SEIS, SEIS, and FSEIS reports published by the DoS suffer similar data gaps.

It is obvious that without GIS mapping data the Keystone XL Pipeline reports published by the DoS are meaningless and unreviewable by the public, which is supposed to be allowed to comment on them. DoS’ position is nonsensical. In your letter you state:

The GIS mapping data you seek was developed by TransCanada for its own use. Although the data was made available to ERM for the purpose of ERM’s NEPA review, this data was not ‘developed by, through or for the Contractor.’ As such, it is State’s position that the records you seek do not fall within the ambit of this provision.

This statement is self-contradictory. Clearly, the GIS data were ‘developed by, through or for the Contractor,’ because without the data, the Contractor would have been unable to perform their contracted NEPA review, just as the public has been unable to review the FEIS, SEIS, and FSEIS without the data. It is disingenuous at best for TransCanada and DoS to claim they are going to build, operate, and regulate a pipeline according to federal and state law without telling the public where it is. The only goal achieved by TransCanada, ERM, and DoS in not releasing the GIS data is that evaluation of the project’s FEIS, SEIS, and FSEIS is made impossible. Certainly, such obfuscation is not compliant with FOIA and defeats the whole purpose of the public comment period.

Unsupported and Contradictory Claims by DoS and OGIS

The facts do not support the DoS’ claim that “TransCanada made its intention clear that it retained all rights to that data and placed limitation on its use.”

  • The DoS Keystone XL Pipeline documents do not contain any record of TransCanada stating this intention.
  • The DoS Keystone XL Pipeline documents do not contain any document or agreement between the DoS, TransCanada and/or other third parties directly addressing the use of GIS data.
  • The DoS relies on a convoluted and nonsensical reading of the MSA between TransCanada and ERM to exclude otherwise public records from review.

The DoS has obfuscated the facts and has not been forthcoming in its response. My concern is that if this matter cannot be resolved administratively, litigation may become necessary. I urge you to reconsider your denial of my case and make every effort to clarify these matters with DoS, bring them into compliance with FOIA, and ensure the integrity of the public review process.

Sincerely,

Thomas Bachand

Map Update: The Sand Hills in WY, CO, SD, NE, & KS

The Nebraska reroute of the Keystone XL was done in large part to avoid the Sand Hills, an environmentally sensitive area that encompasses parts of Wyoming, Colorado, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas. This KMP Google Earth add-on map, sourced from a soil and water map by Professor Xiaodong Miao with the Illinois State Geological Survey and Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, shows the new route well within the Sand Hills area.

For more maps, see the KMP Downloads and Links page.

FOIA Update: Appeal Hearing Delayed for Fifth Time

The December appeal hearing concerning the Department of State’s response to my 2012 FOIA request for Keystone XL GIS data never took place… nor did November’s, nor October’s. As you may recall, in June of 2013 the DOS responded that they had neither requested nor received GIS data for the Keystone XL pipeline. Next, my appeal was scheduled to be heard in January, which quietly expires this weekend. Now in our sixth month of delays, the 21-day appeal response time limit stipulated by the FOIA statute has long passed.

According to the DOS, appeal cases are internally reviewed prior to being brought before the appeal panel. The appeal panel is made up of outside consultants who are paid to hear the appeals. Due to budgetary constraints, I was told, the DOS has not been able to bring the panel together (as you may recall this time period coincides with the government shutdown and other such austerity). So it has appeared that throughout the Fall my case has not gone to appeal, not because it has not been reviewed, but because simply the panel has not met.

Yet, this line of explanation evaporated yesterday when a DOS official responded to my latest inquiry. “Your request is still under review and did not make it through in time for the Appeals Review Panel. The new estimated completion date is May 2014.”

As the DOS is currently working on a long-anticipated, revised environmental impact statement for the Keystone XL, one would think they could readily determine whether they had the GIS data or not. It’s not as if they have to look very far to find it. In the least, it’s a phone call to TransCanada away. As I doubt I’ll be seeing this data before the release of the revised EIS, those eagerly awaiting the revised report shouldn’t hold their breath.

The Cartographer’s Illusion

map of California as an islandIn November I had the pleasure of attending Mapping and It’s Discontents, a symposium put on by the UC Berkeley Global Urban Humanities Initiative and hosted by the David Brower Center. The speakers covered everything from the history of mapping to the innovative developments brought on by our digital age, including big-data demographic applications and quirky artistic renderings. The attendees were quite diverse. Their map creations can found at the See-Through Maps Exhibit and Attendee Maps. Video of the symposium can be found online here. For those intrigued by maps, the above links are well worth visiting.

During the event, I was often reminded of a young man I met decades ago while traveling through the Nusa Tengara archipelago of Indonesia. I wrote about him in “A Vagabond World,” my book on world travel. While negotiating the city of Kupang, West Timor with a tourist map, I consulted the teenager after I became lost on a side street. He did not speak English and I spoke only basic Bhasa Indonesian. He took my green tourist map, turned it this way and that, and finally returned it to me with a shrug. I realized he had never seen a map.

Before then, it had never occurred to me that the map is the purview of an educated class. It is a human construct of a physical space, which effectively (and often unquestioned) dictates the meaning of a landscape. The cartographer’s illusion. The tourist bureau that issued my map of Kupang had one view of the city; city engineers, undoubtedly, had quite another.

To this day, when I think of Kupang, I imagine that friendly green map, despite the unforgettable smell of the open sewers. In my mind it became the city’s logo – in the same way that a map of the lower 48 says “United States.” Each map, designed for a different purpose, creates a different image and feeling in our mind, and deeply influences how we both perceive and engage with a physical space. And while exploring without a map encourages an intimate understanding of a landscape, a well-engineered map establishes a dialogue within the community.

In the case to the Keystone XL, where neither TransCanada nor the Department of State will provide a map, we are placed in the same position as that young man from the Third World: we turn the simplistic company map this way and that, and unable to make sense of it, abandon it altogether.

Map: Trail of Tears and the Keystone XL

A new KMP supplementary Google Earth map is now available for late 19th Century Ponca and Pawnee migrations, including the Trail of Tears. This map shows the relationship between these historic, sacred routes and the Keystone XL corridor.

While the First Peoples of Canada have become very vocal in the tar sands pipeline discussion, less visible are Native Americans. Of particular note is the sacred “Trail of Tears” and other Ponca and Pawnee migration trails which bisect the Keystone XL on their way from Nebraska to Oklahoma.

More information on the Ponca Tribe can be found here. Additional Ponca history, including another Google Earth map and history on Ponca Post-Columbus migrations, can be found here.

TransCanada Contradicts DOS

The mysterious Keystone route. Now you see it, now you don’t.

As reported earlier on this blog, in response to my April 2012 FOIA request for routing data for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, the Department of State (DOS) revealed in June of this year, for the first time, that TransCanada was not required to submit the data and the DOS never required or requested that it be submitted, despite the fact that it is referenced throughout the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS). I asked TransCanada’s press office if this were true and was told by email,

“It is our understanding that the DOS has been given the most current route information. If there is additional information they require, we will be happy to provide that to them.”

As my follow up emails and telephone calls to TransCanada went unanswered, I was unable to determine who at the DOS received the information and when they received it.

So, the bigger questions remain:

How does the the DOS fulfill it’s regulatory duty if it does not have the route data, has it but can’t find it, or worse, doesn’t even know whether it has or doesn’t have the data?

If the DOS is not reviewing the pipeline’s Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS), who is?

With these questions unanswered, how is the public supposed to have confidence that the DOS has performed adequate due diligence before exercising its critical authority on such a highly controversial and dangerous pipeline project, particularly when our national security is at risk?

The controversy and challenges facing the Keystone XL in the state of Nebraska offer insight into these questions.

The pipeline permit issued by the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) authorizes a routing corridor of 2,000 feet, a zone over 1/3 of a mile wide in which TransCanada can build their pipeline. Yet, while TransCanada has a 110-foot center-line route selected within this corridor, the actual route within the corridor remains a corporate secret – even to the NDEQ, who says that they do not have rights to TransCanada’s information. This jibes with the DOS’ claim that that they themselves do not possess the routing data.

More astonishing is the experience of Nebraska landowners. According to Jane Kleeb of Bold Nebraska, TransCanada will not reveal the route across a landowner’s property unless that landowner first signs a contract for the pipeline easement in perpetuity.

Meanwhile, TransCanada claims that only 10-30% of Nebraska landowners whose land is crossed by the proposed pipeline do not support the pipeline. Kleeb points out that this can’t possibly be true since 35% of landowners are members of the Nebraska Easement Action Team (NEAT), all of whom refuse to negotiate easements with TransCanada unless the state gets involved. According to NEAT, “no one in Nebraska government in over five years – not your Governor, Attorney General, NDEQ, or Legislature – evaluated the Easement Agreement, the document TransCanada proposes to use with landowners as the controlling terms for how your land will be affected.” As NEAT does not represent all landowners in opposition, Kleeb thinks the opposition numbers are closer to 50%.

In their email to me, TransCanada’s press office went on to say:

In fact, the pipeline route is placed on the National Pipeline Mapping System, which allows any first responder to call up information on any pipeline in their jurisdiction (pipeline, route, product) so that they have current and correct information to assist them in carrying out their duties. This is not new and is a long-standing practice because pipelines are deemed to be critical infrastructure so some information may not be part of a publicly available document to protect the safety of our people, landowners and the communities where these lines run and these important assets.

In other words, we’ll tell you where it is once we build it – as you’ll be cleaning up the mess.

Keystone XL Google Earth Map Updated

The Keystone Mapping Project’s Google Earth view has seen a number of updates recently, including expanded informational windows, addition of the 2,000 foot Nebraska routing corridor, and the correction of a number of rendering errors.

The new file can be found on the Keystone XL Google Earth Downloads page.

Please consider making a donation to this project as these maps and resources come to you at considerable expense in time, effort, and expertise.

Tesla Beats Keystone Border-to-Border

New to the KMP Google Earth Add-on maps is a map of Tesla charging stations.

Currently one can drive from the Canadian border to the Mexican border along the iconic West Coast free of charge. The new Supercharger charging stations (currently 12 on the West Coast with many more to come in the Fall) allow for a full 300 mile charge in only 20 minutes. By 2015 Tesla expects to have Supercharger charging stations covering the country.

The Keystone Fiction

Recently, a reader asked me about an existing right-of-way visible on Google Earth that follows parts of the planned Keystone XL corridor. In some areas the projected route can be seen to directly overlay this visible right-of-way; at others it is adjacent or diverges sharply. Similar convergences and differences can also be seen in the official data. The multiple official sources I use typically align, but at times, they don’t. What accounts for this?

We can only conjecture explanations for what we are seeing:

  1. Is TransCanada following an existing easement when possible? Perhaps their leases with landowners allow them to put in multiple pipelines. Some states, like Montana, regulate pipelines stringently, others, like Oklahoma, appear to hardly regulate at all.
  2. Is TransCanada widening an existing easement?
  3. Does TransCanada only survey the route when they’re on the ground, ready to dig? The FEIS shows no survey procedures. Is the route created on a computer and no one actually steps on the ground until they show up at your property line – then they’ve got a 500 foot easement so they can adjust for real-world conditions? The regulatory disparities between various state agencies are broad and, again, the FEIS does not specify. Again, Montana stipulates surveying. Oklahoma is a black box.
  4. Are the FEIS maps and data tables accurate?
  5. All of the above.

Unfortunately, the incomplete nature of the FEIS and the opacity of the review process have made it impossible to verify the report’s veracity and determine the environmental impacts of the pipeline. The KMP primarily focuses on the absence of route data. Yet with other glaring deficiency in the FEIS coming to light, such as TransCanada’s inability to draw up an Emergency Response Plan and the paltry third-party insurance liability of $200 million, one has to wonder what else is remiss with the FEIS.

That’s the thing about environmental impact statements: initially they’re written by those with an interest in the project’s completion. They should be considered a work of fiction until proven otherwise. In the case of the Keystone XL, both the FEIS and the SEIS were produced by companies that had previously worked for TransCanada, Cardo Entrix and ERM, respectively. The Department of State is okay with this. While legal challenges can bring transparencies to an EIS, in the case of the Keystone XL Gulf Coast segment, landowner lawsuits and challenges by the Sierra Club were stymied and EPA review prevented when the US Army Corps of Engineers approved a Nationwide Permit 12 for the project.

The challenges to the Keystone XL are highlighting the business-as-usual approach to pipeline approval. The one-size-fits-all approval process does not seem to take into account the type of petroleum being transported by the Keystone, the Canadian ownership of the pipeline, nor its intended export to Asian markets.

We see this opacity being underscored in last week’s bitumen pipeline rupture in an Arkansas community. Was the community aware that they were living adjacent to a diluted bitumen pipeline? Was Exxon’s mitigation plan cleared with authorities? Why is Exxon controlling journalist access, including the airspace above the spill? Why aren’t companies transporting diluted bitumen contributing to the government’s clean-up fund, the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund?

I suppose the greater question is: why are pipeline supporters so afraid of the facts?

Keystone XL: There’s an app…

KXL Mobile Webapp.  Optimized for iPhone.Contemplating our changing landscape, energy policy, or where that benzene smell is coming from? The Keystone Mapping Project webapp takes the nationally recognized multimedia and photography project on the road, examining land use and climate change in America through an exploration of the Keystone XL. The controversial pipeline has become emblematic of our inability to reconcile world demand for fossil fuels and the environmental imperatives imposed upon modern civilization. Optimized for the iPhone, this mobile app features fine art photography, the pipeline’s only interactive route map, and the latest Keystone news and blogs.

Bookmark for easy access: