TransCanada’s Keystone Legal Action May Lead To Review Of Climate Science

  • Date: 08/01/16
  • Peter Foster, Financial Post

No cross-border pipeline has ever been turned down in the cause of saving the world

One of the main purposes of free trade deals is to protect legitimate corporate activity from political expediency. On that basis, TransCanada’s proposed US$15 billion NAFTA claim against President Barack Obama’s rejection of its Keystone XL pipeline would appear as big a “no brainer” as the pipeline’s approval was once claimed to be by Stephen Harper.

Keystone XL was thrown under the bus of Obama’s egotistical climate “legacy,” as the man who single-handedly rolled back the oceans and healed the earth. The rejection was also his sacrificial offering to the monstrously hypocritical climate conference in Paris.

Then again, NAFTA arbitrators have also ruled in a number of cases that governments obviously retain the power to legislate for the “public good,” which is nowhere both more ideological and nebulous than when it comes to the climate issue.

Much has rightly been made of the demonization of Keystone XL by powerful environmental non-governmental organizations, ENGOs, but those who chained themselves to the White House were far from unwelcome to the Oval Office.

Obama’s problem has always been how to make some rational basis for rejection. His statement turning down Keystone XL in November fell apart like a Soviet tractor when subjected to the most superficial analysis. Moreover, Obama’s staunchest allies might be cited to make TransCanada’s case. Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org and a mighty force on both sides of the border in using the climate scare to stop fossil fuel development, congratulated Obama  as “the first world leader to reject a project because of its effect on the climate.”

The problem for Obama was that Keystone XL could have had no effect on climate, as the State Department pointed out numerous times. So his decision was purely political. Indeed TransCanada’s notice to submit a claim under NAFTA leads with the words of Obama’s own press secretary: “I would venture to say that there’s probably no infrastructure project in the history of the United States that’s been as politicized as this one.” […]

Obama misled when he said that Keystone XL would not contribute to energy security since the U.S. still imports more than 4 million barrels a day from producers – mostly human rights abusers — other than Canada. He claimed that Keystone XL’s “dirty” oil would not lower prices, but any project that puts more oil onto markets obviously exerts downward price pressure.

He eventually admitted his primary motivation: that approval would “undercut” America’s – which is to say his — “global leadership” on climate.

The NAFTA arbitration, which would not begin for six months and could drag on for years, will be fascinating not just for its size and scope, but for the fact that it might lead to an airing of the state of climate science, which is looking more and more like that Soviet tractor every day. In that regard, however, it presents something of a conundrum for a new Liberal Canadian government that has declared itself gung ho to make its irrelevant contribution to halt the phantom menace, and to make a “fresh start” with Obama.

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