It was a long awaited announcement that even Hillary Clinton admitted was “way, way” overdue. Hillary Clinton is just saying no to the Keystone XL Pipeline according to NBC News Sept. 21. It’s a long contentious project that is projected to carry oil from oil rich Canada to many parts of the United States. But, this project which has been years in the making, has not been without controversy, strife, and some even say corruption. Thus many people have been working across the border and between two countries to keep this project afloat, at seemingly any moral or financial cost. The biggest company that has the most to lose with Hillary’s announcement is, Trans Canada, the company that will be building, and profiting the most from the Keystone XL Pipeline. With both Democratic candidates that are Presidential hopefuls opposing the Keystone XL, Trans Canada could be in a pickle. Will all of the stress, strife, and possibly corruption that Trans Canada has poured into this project be for naught?
It’s not looking good. And all of this American political speculation could be for naught anyway. With a federal Canadian election just around the corner, the Canadian party that gets into office may also just say no to the Keystone XL Pipeline. That will mean the millions, and likely billions, that Trans Canada has already poured into Keystone XL, will all get flushed down the drain.
Today, Hillary Clinton supporters and climate change activists are cheering at her position on the Keystone XL. And, it likely earned her a few more votes as well from Keystone XL opponents all across the country. We’ll see what happens next week to her numbers with the next round of polls, but right now, it’s good news for Hillary, not so much for Trans Canada.
Trans Canada has had a bit of a rough week. With Scott Walker pulling out of the Presidential race, a key Presidential candidate that was for Keystone XL is out of Trans Canada’s grasp. It is no secret that the Koch brothers have a lot to gain as well if Keystone goes through. Koch had all of their high hopes resting on Walker, and now they have nothing to show for it.
Climate change is the key purpose for Hillary’s big announcement at a campaign in Iowa yesterday. According to NBC yesterday she said,
“I think it is imperative that we look at the Keystone XL Pipeline as what I believe it is: a distraction from the important work we have to do to combat climate change, and, unfortunately from my perspective, one that interferes with our ability to move forward and deal with other issues. Therefore, I oppose it. I oppose it because I don’t think it’s in the best interest of what we need to do to combat climate change.”
There is of course more than a little bit of politicking going on with Hillary’s announcement. That she made the announcement in Iowa is one clue. Hillary’s standings in Iowa have been dwindling lately.
She needs to pick up those numbers for the Presidential race if she wants to take this key battleground state in the election. And she needs to. Saying no to Keystone XL may be just what she needs to do to lock that in. So her announcement is likely not so much a “finally I have to say this” as much as it is likely a, “Iowa is the perfect time to say this” announcement.
Even so, the decision has been made, and now Trans Canada needs to figure something else out. Until now, bribes or “donations” and gag orders of secrecy have been Trans Canada’s main way of lobbying for support for the Keystone XL Pipeline in America. When Hillary made her announcement yesterday, Trans Canada spokesperson Davis Sheremata told Reuters on Sept. 21,
“Pipelines are the safest and least greenhouse gas intensive way to transport needed Canadian and American crude oil to Americans – safer than rail.”
Pipelines may be safer than rail. However, what Trans Canada isn’t saying in this statement is, ‘We’ve got billions in receipts over this deal, and thus we still think it’s the best and safest choice for America.’
How much has actually been spent by Trans Canada, and to whom, in the 7 year long battle over Keystone XL? That depends. On the book expenses and off the book expenses will be much different numbers. There is a very long line of people, from single farmers to entire towns who have been tempted with everything from a blanket check to a new mattress from Trans Canada, if they listen to their speech about pipelines.
Trans Canada has not only lobbied with farm owners and towns, but also with American government over pipelines. Since 2008, when Congress passed H.R. 1938, the North American Made Energy Security Act, Trans Canada has dropped almost $800,000.
And that’s just for that bill. Death and Taxes Magazine reports that it is estimated that lobbying costs alone for Trans Canada will topple the $1 million dollar mark before the next vote on Keystone XL.
And they are not alone. In addition to Trans Canada, others that are pouring money into lobbying are the Koch Brothers, Exxon Mobil, the Sierra Club, and Chevron. There’s nothing wrong with that. That’s not illegal.
And it’s not even illegal to “donate” money to a town, or give new mattresses to a First Nations Reserve, just so that they hear out your pipeline speech. But it does look shady. And it looks even shadier when those same people are given, with their checks, a “don’t ask don’t tell speech.”
And that’s exactly what happened to the town of Mattawa, Ontario, when conversations about Trans Canada’s Energy East Pipeline came into play in Mattawa. $30,000 was given to them in 2012 for a rescue vehicle, in the event of a fire emergency with the pipeline. At the time, they were asked to not speak about it.
Trans Canada later took that back, not the money, just the gag order. But Mattawa town Councillor Nico Walters felt “uneasy” about that, and says he had a hard time sleeping on the night of that vote. He said,
“It’s not right. Basically you’re paying someone to stay silent about a contentious issues that will potentially impact future generations.”
Environmental Defense worker Adam Scott had a bit of a problem with the “donation” as well. He called it as he saw it, as hush money.
“The no comment clause reads like a gag order. Local councils need to be asking tough questions about pipeline safety. This clause could limit them. They’re taking hush money to shut up, and that means they’re not looking out for the best interest of their community.”
It’s not just Mattawa. There are communities all over the United States, in the projected path of the Keystone XL Pipeline that have been given “hush money” as well. In just July of this year, the Montreal Gazette reported that the cost of “hush money” for the Energy East project included “32 capacity funding agreements” that totaled around the $12 billion dollar mark.
But Trans Canada says, that money is not to entice anyone to sign onto our project. Grand Chief Serge Simon says otherwise. He’s not prepared to accept the “stipulations” from Trans Canada on the $15,000 check they cut him last year.
“They brought up incentives like one community got a brand new fire station, other communities have got youth centres built, they’re basically buying their way across the pipeline. They know we’re broke, they know we’re starving for cash in our communities. They come in here, dangle that dollar, thought it was going to be a real sweet deal but they hit a wall when they came down this way.”
We previously reported on another group that had protested the Keystone XL this past Spring. They were offered new mattresses in exchange for agreeing to have their drinking water polluted with spills from the Keystone XL. The Mohawk Council of Akwesasne also received $10,000 for a new hiking trail, if Trans Canada could “study” the land. That, and 43 other “studies” funded by Trans Canada are cropping up around America today, in their efforts to garner support for Keystone XL.
The Grand Council of Treaty 3, a council that represents 24 First Nations in Ontario, has also received a nice cheque from Trans Canada. $700,000 was given to them for an “environmental assessment.” But, nobody was allowed to talk about that either.
And those are only a handful of the “hush money” contracts that Trans Canada has their hand in. Since 2013, Trans Canada has reportedly attended as many as 1,700 meetings with more than 260 First Nations communities and given those communities over $66 billion for concerns and exchanges related to pipelines. And those are only the ones we know about.
Most people that get their hands on a Trans Canada pipeline hush cheque, don’t feel good about it either. Grand Chief Marianna Couchie told the Montreal Gazette,
“The optics of accepting their money are not great. It would be wrong to take their money because we’re opposed to it. Our members are concerned about the impact the pipeline could have on our land, the animals, the water. This is a no-go situation for our community. For some small communities that are hurting financially, it could be tempting to take this money. But you have to ask yourself, at what cost?”
If either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders gets into office, there will likely be no Keystone XL in….anywhere. After all they have done, Trans Canada is not going to let that go lightly. Will there be more quiet “donations” from Trans Canada moving forward? Or less now? What is to become of the Keystone XL Pipeline? Do you support it?