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Call it the ripple effect

If it was as simple as fabricating 1,897 kilometres of pipe through which to deliver crude oil products to refineries, the project would be up and running. For proponents of the recently-rejected Keystone XL pipeline, it’s not that simple.

If it was as simple as fabricating 1,897 kilometres of pipe through which to deliver crude oil products to refineries, the project would be up and running.

For proponents of the recently-rejected Keystone XL pipeline, it’s not that simple.

The process is complicated; nebulous, even, when you include the diversity of stakeholders and interest groups vying for a slice of influence in the policy decision-making pie.

Hatched seven years ago, the Keystone XL pipeline plan was created in an effort to provide a reliable, cost-efficient stream of raw Canadian crude oil product to U.S. refineries. Product from the source at Hardisty was to have flowed to Steel City, Neb., before tapping into an existing pipeline network for delivery to refineries in the Houston/Port Arthur, Tex., area.

Following seven years of political ping pong, including tireless lobbying by TransCanada Corp. and former prime minister Stephen Harper, U.S. President Barack Obama finally announced Nov. 6 the U.S. wasn’t interested in the project. Citing environmental concerns, upon rejecting the Keystone XL initiative, the U.S. president announced: “America is now a global leader when it comes to taking serious action to fight climate change.”

That depends on how you define “serious action.” In the near term, little changes. The same amount of gas-burning vehicles are driving the same distances down the same roads; pumping as much CO2 and CO into the atmosphere as they did yesterday. And the same amount of crude oil flowing to the U.S. from Canada is on its way there today, by rail.

But what does this have to do with Cochrane?

When you view the local advocacy landscape, you see environmentally-sensitive sentiments similar to those in Obama’s Oval Office bubbling to the surface.

Clear-cut logging (Nov. 5 Cochrane Eagle, page 2) is on the front burner in our kitchen, with relevant and passionate dissertations coming from both sides of the table.

Local employer Spray Lake Sawmills received one of the first clear-cut environmental policy decisions made by Alberta Premier Rachel Notley’s New Democratic Party government when it silenced the saws in southwestern Alberta’s Castle Wilderness Area on Oct. 10. As far as “serious action” goes, the decision to halt logging in the Castle area immediately left 99,000 cubic metres of logs standing in a forest that had been on the chopping block.

Serious action, to be sure.

The Ghost watershed, another of our province’s natural gems, is also in the crosshairs of Albertans seeking serious action viewed through an environmental lens. Spray Lake Sawmills insists its clear-cut harvesting model is economically viable and environmentally sustainable. Friends of the Ghost, and others, aren’t as confident in that assertion.

The environment is a popular, if not contentious, issue.

So when the President of the United States of America claims “serious action” that barely changes any effect on the environment in the near term, perhaps it’s the notion of his decision he’s talking about.

The more guys like Barack Obama cast stones into the environmental pond, with decisions like rejecting Keystone XL, the more the ripples wash up on the shores of jurisdictions like Cochrane.

The environment, and our connection to it, is becoming a greater common thread in the global community’s fabric.




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