Day 47: In spite of the passing trains and frigid night air, slept relatively well last night, buried in my sleeping bag. Woke up to a frost covered world.
For those wondering what TransCanada has going in Kansas, the KS section of what would become Keystone XL is already operational and moving some form(s) of crude oil through Kansas to Oklahoma as you read this. I pedaled 50 miles of the pipeline route today and will be pedaling a long stretch close to it again tomorrow.
I learned from my friend Scott Allegrucci at The Great Plains Alliance for Clean Energy that there was a substantial amount of anger over the project from local governments in the six counties through which the pipeline passes, not so much for environmental or other reasons, but over tax revenue. The state of Kansas originally provided TransCanada with state tax breaks as part of a business development package. Then TransCanada threatened re-routing the pipeline to exclude Kansas if they weren’t given additional tax relief. So legislative leaders quietly circumvented the six counties it would cross and provided this foreign corporation with additional tax breaks against county taxes they otherwise would have paid. This should serve as a sober warning to the states of Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas.
Scott has also heard from reliable sources that the pipeline section in Kansas is substandard vis a vis regulations for pumping tar sands oil. Since it isn’t moving tar sands now, it was apparently built below spec, which begs the question of how it will hold up once tar sands slurry starts being pumped through it at high pressure and temperatures. His sources also indicate there have already been small leaks and spills. All very troubling.
On a related note is something I learned through a chance meeting with a local Kansan this afternoon. While grabbing a quick lunch at a Mexican restaurant in El Dorado, I dialed up the local newspaper to let them know I was in town. Returning to my trike, a reporter from the El Dorado Times walked up, with a man standing by her side. Turns out he’s a local schoolteacher and is actually teaching his kids about Keystone XL and the mining of Canadian tar sands. A lively conversation ensued, but what really surprised me was learning that many people working at the local oil refinery (I saw it on my way out of town and it’s sizable) are actually quietly opposed to Keystone XL. Again, it’s not for the same reasons most other people might oppose it. They simply don’t want tar sands slurry running through their conventional oil pipes. Could conventional oil workers possibly become allies against Keystone XL?
50 miles and many hawk encounters later, my sore knees and I rolled into the town of Augusta, where I sought out the Augusta Daily Gazette for an interview. Afterwards, talked with some kids who were digging on the trike, then rolled over to a motel where the owner, like most others I’ve met along the route, gave me a nice break on the room. I’m guessing it’s either because they like the look of the trike, or feel compassion for someone who looks as worn out as me. Probably a little of both.
For anyone wondering how a foreign corporation can get away with bullying U.S. citizens with eminent domain, this NYT article is a must-read: http://tinyurl.com/d7ha8fa.