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.

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.

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.

Keystone (Secret) Comments

It seems that with the Keystone XL, everything is secret – even the public comments to the Department of State’s (DOS) FEIS. You’ll have to file a FOIA request to get them.

Official comments to the DOS are due April 22 and should be sent to keystonecomments@state.gov. I’m posting a copy of my comments below. Feel free to copy your own below, as well. Alternatively (or additionally), 350.org has a convenient comments submission form here.

My comments to the DOS:

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After careful review, I have found the FEIS and SEIS for the proposed Keystone XL project lacking in key data and detail that preclude a proper evaluation of the Keystone XL’s environmental impacts. Of greatest concern are the insufficiency of both the GIS routing data and spill mitigation details in the report.

Inadequate Data

Conspicuously missing from the FEIS and SEIS are the location data for the pipeline’s key landmarks, including milepost (MP) markers and waterbody crossings. Despite their absence, the MP markers are repeatedly referenced throughout both the project and DOS documents and are critical for all discussions of the pipeline route, potential environmental impacts, and surrounding points of interest.

In regards to the SEIS specifically, the GIS data contributed by the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) is inadequate for the following reasons:

  • Milepost Markers: The NDEQ report furnishes MP markers for even miles only, whereas the FEIS requires accuracy to the nearest tenth of a mile.
  • Waterbody Crossings: The NDEQ acknowledges that the Nebraska Keystone route has 163 waterbody crossings, but the NDEQ’s digital map file only contains the five largest.
  • Gas & Water Wells: The gas and water well data contained in the FEIS has not been updated to reflect the revised Nebraska route.

While all parties, including PHMSA, FERC, and all state agencies, acknowledge that the pipeline’s GIS data is public information, neither the DOS nor TransCanada will release this information. The hardcopy maps in the FEIS do not contain longitude and latitude information. TransCanada’s manager of Stakeholder Relations, Terry Cunha, has gone so far as to claim that the Keystone XL route location data is a matter of national security. If this is true, this danger has not been conveyed to the public nor acknowledged in the subject Report. The Report and the FEIS on which it relies cannot be considered suitable for public review until a complete open-source digital dataset has been made readily available at no cost.

Inadequate Spill Mitigation

The FEIS and SEIS also fail to sufficiently addresses TransCanada’s preparation for spill prevention and mitigation. It is alarming that TransCanada has yet to develop an Emergency Response Plan for the Keystone XL. A non-profit group, Plains Justice, brought these deficiencies to public attention over two years ago in their report, The Northern Great Plains at Risk: Oil Spill Planning Deficiencies in Keystone Pipeline System. Given the experience of the 2010 pipeline spill in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where cleanup costs are $1 billion and climbing, TransCanada’s $200 million third party liability insurance is grossly inadequate. Permitting should also be subject to EPA review. It would be negligent to repeat the Gulf Coast approval process, whereby USACE gave sweeping project-wide construction approval to TransCanada through a Nationwide Permit 12 and withheld waterbody crossing data until after granting their approval.

It is disturbing that TransCanada has not been required to fully disclose details of the pipeline route to the public or to document adequate emergency spill response measures. The public review process requires more accurate and complete information than have been provided to date by TransCanada, the DOS, and all state agencies regulating the pipeline.

Sincerely,

Thomas Bachand

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:

FOIA Update: Non-expeditious Denial of Expeditious Processing

On June 26, 2012, I wrote about my appeal of the Department of State’s (DOS) Denial of Expeditious Processing of my FOIA request for GIS route information. At the time, the United State Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) was considering a Nationwide Permit 12 for the Gulf Coast segment of the Keystone route, thereby bypassing EPA review of the pipeline’s waterbody crossings. As my appeal noted, without public disclosure of the milepost and waterbody GIS data, approval of the Gulf Coast Keystone route was bypassing public review:

Public is Being Denied Due Process

Despite the denial of the Presidential Permit, construction of the Keystone XL is currently underway. TransCanada, a foreign company, has been accused of using dubious means to gain right-of-way to private property, including the declaration of eminent domain. Currently, TransCanada is seeking expedited permitting by the Army Corps of Engineers for the Gulf Coast route. The Army Corps has promised to reply by June 26. While individual property owners are certainly aware of the pipeline’s presence, the wider community and citizens around the country are unable to make a proper review of the project without the MP and GIS data. To release key data only after landowners have undergone substantial hardship or the project is completed, would be to deny landowners, communities, and the public due process.

USACE approved the Gulf Coast Segment in early August of 2012 without fully disclosing the route or waterbody crossings. Eventually, an environmental non-profit forwarded me a number of TransCanada documents obtained through the FOIA process that contained the waterbody data.

It was not until January of this year that I discovered that, on July 12, 2012 (nearly a month before USACE issued its permit), the DOS had written – yet failed to send – me a letter denying my appeal for the expeditious processing of my FOIA request for GIS routing data. Incredibly, in their letter the DOS claims that this case is not eligible for expedited processing as it does not involve “Loss of substantial due process rights” – this despite the lack of transparency in DOS and USACE processes and the eminent domain proceedings being brought against Texas landowners by TransCanda, a Canadian company. The letter is below.

As the one year anniversary of my FOIA request approaches, I have made nearly a dozen calls to the DOS, speaking to numerous individuals in an effort to determine the disposition of my request and, for that matter, whether the DOS even has the GIS route data. I received a polite email from a gentleman at the DOS the other day saying that my request would be addressed shortly, to please stop calling, and to contact him with any questions. He didn’t include his number.

Department of State Denial of Expeditious Processing, Page 1
Department of State Denial of Expeditious Processing, Page 2

Updated: Nebraska Keystone XL map

The Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) announced earlier this month a revised route for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline through Nebraska. The Keystone Mapping Project (KMP) has incorporated the changes to show the Northern, Clarks, and Western Alternatives, as well as milepost (MP) markers (Thank you, NDEQ!) and a couple of waterbody crossings. Drill down from the MP information bubble, one can also call up the Voluntary Evacuation Zone, US aquifers and, for those seeking more detail, the official NDEQ Google Earth file where one can locate access roads, valve and pumping stations, and more (NDEQ didn’t include icons, so you’ll need to hunt and peck a bit).

These files are for personal use only. Distribution and posting to the Internet is not permitted without written permission. All site contents ©Thomas Bachand 2012.

Tracking Keystone Eminent Domain Et Al

Update Nov. 26, 2012: The first installment of the Eminent Domain Map can be found on the KMP Google Earth views, the Keystone 2D Complete map, and this custom Google Map view. Eminent domain filings are shown by county. If you have eminent domain or related information to share, please contact the Keystone Mapping Project »


TransCanada CEO Russ Girling says that the company “partners” with 60,000 landowners on daily basis. One also hears, though, of landowners being strong-armed by the company into cooperating, through eminent domain or the threat of legal action. Others feel they’ve been misled by the company.

I’m soliciting submissions for markers on a new KMP map view: Keystone Eminent Domain Et Al. Location markers will be created for those who send me:

If you’d like to remain anonymous on the map view, please indicate so in your email and include the longitude/latitude of the nearest town or municipality. I will still need your contact information so as to verify your submission and insure the integrity of the map. In any case, your contact information will NOT be included in the map unless requested, nor will it be shared with anyone. Anonymous submissions will not be considered.

To send a submission:

Groundwater Map: Principal US Aquifers

The Nebraska controversy that resulted in TransCanada Corporation rerouting the Keystone XL pipeline around the Sandhills and away from the Ogallala Aquifer highlighted the risk the pipeline poses to groundwater (Read more about the Environmental risks of the Keystone XL pipeline).

To augment the KMP Google Earth view I have converted a USGS map of principal US aquifers (Source: National Atlas). Viewers will immediately notice the extraordinary size of the mid-West aquifers as compared to, say, Hawaii or the Rocky Mountains where the aquifers are much smaller.

View the Keystone Mapping Project and US aquifers in Google Earth:

These files are for personal use only. Distribution and posting to the Internet is not permitted without written permission. All site contents ©Thomas Bachand 2012.

Nebraska KXL Route Revised

TransCanada’s revised Keystone XL Pipeline Nebraska route has been added to the Keystone Mapping Project. While there are several alternative routes being proposed, only data for the preferred route has been released. It has been added to both the Google Earth and Google Map views.

The new route avoids the designated Sandhills area but continues to impinge upon the Sandhills landscape and cross the Ogallala Aquifer. The Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) is conducting a series of meetings concerning the new route and hosting documents on their website. Bold Nebraska is very involved in landowner rights and community organization around the Keystone XL.

While the route information shown on the Keystone Mapping Project comes from the Nebraska DEQ, the water and gas wells locations (view on Google Earth) come from the Final Environmental Impact Statement published on the Department of State website. Visitors to KMP will notice that, in many cases, water and gas well routes, chiefly in Nebraska and North Dakota, do not follow the Keystone route. These well locations follow alternate routes TransCanada is considering.

According to TransCanada’s Nebraska Reroute Report (click to download), the Keystone XL is a fait accompli. To quote the report:

In January 2012, the DOS announced its determination that the project – as presented and analyzed at that time – did not serve the national interest. The determination was based not on the merits of the project, but on the rationale that the time provided by Congress for a decision was not adequate to complete the National Interest review of the project. Specifically, the DOS stated that there was insufficient time to develop and assess information regarding alternative pipeline routes in Nebraska.

Thus, according to TransCanada, Congress feels the merits of the Keystone XL are sound, they simply haven’t had the chance to fully assess it.

The TransCanada document, dated April 18. 2012, also states that the Nebraska legislature authorized NDEQ to review alternative Sandhills routes on April 11. It should not surprise readers that, with the speed at which these documents are published (one week in this case), basic information by which to make a proper evaluation is missing.

In the case of the Nebraska reroute, the proposed corridors are 2,000 feet wide – over one-third of a mile wide (By comparison, the proposed Montana corridor is 500 feet wide). With that amount of latitude it is difficult to understand how landowners are to determine if they are subject to the right away, let alone where the pipeline will cross their property. Further, how is the community to determine impacts if they can’t pinpoint the route?