The guy in TransCanada’s Data Integrity Program was very friendly, but once he found out I wasn’t with the company he said “You’ll have to talk to Public Relations.” He wouldn’t say why. It took me a while to track down PR’s phone number, only to have neither my calls nor emails returned. It didn’t seem like very good PR. Then again, I was asking for the milepost marker longitude and latitude data for TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline as referenced throughout the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) published on the Department of State (DOS) website. Why would PR have this information? I was confused.
I called TransCanada Stakeholder Relations and spoke to a very nice woman who said that TransCanada doesn’t release the milepost data so as to protect landowners. That didn’t make sense because many landowners are angry with TransCanada for making dubious use of common carrier status (typically used for telephone and public utility cables and pipelines) in order to declare eminent domain and force a right-of-way for their pipeline upon property owners. She clarified that they were protecting from public retribution those landowners who had signed leases. Evidently, someone’s car was vandalized. What about the communities directly impacted by the pipeline? She didn’t know. And how is one supposed to make sense of the FEIS without the oft-cited milepost data? She said that the milepost markers would be finalized and made public when the pipeline was completed and operating. Wouldn’t that be a little late? The whole point of public review was to look at the project ahead of time, no? Or maybe that was TransCanada’s point. Anyway, if I really wanted the milepost information, she helpfully suggested, I could overlay the striped-down FEIS maps, which have been purged of all longitude and latitude information, onto real maps and get the location information that way. I was getting more confused. It was nice that she acknowledged the information was public, but it seemed like a waste of effort when they could just give me the data.
Then I read TransCanada CEO Russ Girling’s opinion piece in the New York Times, in which he said,
Our plan has undergone well over three years of environmental review by numerous reputable federal and state agencies. The review was the most comprehensive process ever for a cross-border pipeline.
I was buoyed to hear that TransCanada was as concerned for America’s safety as I, so I called the office of Sean McMaster, the Vice President of Stakeholders Relations. Certainly, he would help me make sense of the FEIS and release the milepost data. My calls went unreturned. Eventually I was connected to the Vice President of Public Sector Relations, who said I was the only one ever to request the Keystone milepost data. Someone would get back to me, he said. He wasn’t sure why the information wasn’t available and then added the caveat, or what the information is. It only confused me more that the Vice President of Public Sector Relations for a company striving to be the “leading energy infrastructure company in North America” did not know about milepost markers.
Eventually, Terry Cunha, Manager of Stakeholder Relations for the Keystone called me. Mr. Cunha said that milepost data was a matter of national security and that the information had been released to regulators. If the public knew where the pipeline was, he said, “They could impact it. They could drop a backhoe on top of it.” I reminded him that both the US Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) regard pipeline data as public information. Furthermore, the states of Texas and Montana post the proposed Keystone XL route on their web sites – it’s just the milepost data that is missing, preventing one from making a complete analysis of the FEIS. In fact, a friendly fellow at FERC told me that physical stakes would mark the mileposts just for the reason cited by Mr. Cunha: construction crews need to know where pipelines are buried.
“We’re not going to give it to you,” Mr. Cunha said bluntly.
With no one left to call, I had become dizzy with confusion, as if I was breathing the benzene released by a diluted bitumen spill. My questions have only multiplied:
Which regulators have received the milepost data? PHMSA does not get the information until after the project is approved. Regulators in the states of South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas all claim to have not received the data. My FOIA request to the DOS is anticipated to take 5 to 12 months.
As the FEIS is incomplete without the milepost data and, as I am the only one in the country to request the milepost data (according to both TransCanada and the DOS), on what basis does TransCanada CEO Russ Girling claim “The review was the most comprehensive process ever for a cross-border pipeline?”
Why has TransCanada failed to notify the public that the Keystone XL presents a “national security” risk?
How do American military service personnel and veterans feel about a foreign corporation hiding behind “national security” when withholding critical environmental review information concerning the company’s private diluted bitumen (tar sands) pipeline bisecting the American heartland?
Next week the US Army Corps of Engineers is going to make a determination on TransCanada’s application for a Nationwide Permit 12, which will sidestep EPA oversight and threaten hundreds of waterways (651 in Texas alone).
Is this the national security risk TransCanada is referring to?