IF President Obama blocks the Keystone XL pipeline once and for all, he’ll do Canada a favor.
Canada’s tar sands formations, landlocked in northern Alberta, are a giant reserve of carbon-saturated energy — a mixture of sand, clay and a viscous low-grade petroleum called bitumen. Pipelines are the best way to get this resource to market, but existing pipelines to the United States are almost full. So tar sands companies, and the Alberta and Canadian governments, are desperately searching for export routes via new pipelines.
Canadians don’t universally support construction of the pipeline. A poll by Nanos Research in February 2012 found that nearly 42 percent of Canadians were opposed. Many of us, in fact, want to see the tar sands industry wound down and eventually stopped, even though it pumps tens of billions of dollars annually into our economy.
The most obvious reason is that tar sands production is one of the world’s most environmentally damaging activities. It wrecks vast areas of boreal forest through surface mining and subsurface production. It sucks up huge quantities of water from local rivers, turns it into toxic waste and dumps the contaminated water into tailing ponds that now cover nearly 70 square miles.
Also, bitumen is junk energy. A joule, or unit of energy, invested in extracting and processing bitumen returns only four to six joules in the form of crude oil. In contrast, conventional oil production in North America returns about 15 joules. Because almost all of the input energy in tar sands production comes from fossil fuels, the process generates significantly more carbon dioxide than conventional oil production.
There is a less obvious but no less important reason many Canadians want the industry stopped: it is relentlessly twisting our society into something we don’t like. Canada is beginning to exhibit the economic and political characteristics of a petro-state.
Countries with huge reserves of valuable natural resources often suffer from economic imbalances and boom-bust cycles. They also tend to have low-innovation economies, because lucrative resource extraction makes them fat and happy, at least when resource prices are high.
Canada is true to type. When demand for tar sands energy was strong in recent years, investment in Alberta surged. But that demand also lifted the Canadian dollar, which hurt export-oriented manufacturing in Ontario, Canada’s industrial heartland. Then, as the export price of Canadian heavy crude softened in late 2012 and early 2013, the country’s economy stalled.
Canada’s record on technical innovation, except in resource extraction, is notoriously poor. Capital and talent flow to the tar sands, while investments in manufacturing productivity and high technology elsewhere languish.
But more alarming is the way the tar sands industry is undermining Canadian democracy. By suggesting that anyone who questions the industry is unpatriotic, tar sands interest groups have made the industry the third rail of Canadian politics.
The current Conservative government holds a large majority of seats in Parliament but was elected in 2011 with only 40 percent of the vote, because three other parties split the center and left vote. The Conservative base is Alberta, the province from which Prime Minister Stephen Harper and many of his allies hail. As a result, Alberta has extraordinary clout in federal politics, and tar sands influence reaches deep into the federal cabinet.
Both the cabinet and the Conservative parliamentary caucus are heavily populated by politicians who deny mainstream climate science. The Conservatives have slashed financing for climate science, closed facilities that do research on climate change, told federal government climate scientists not to speak publicly about their work without approval and tried, unsuccessfully, to portray the tar sands industry as environmentally benign.
The federal minister of natural resources, Joe Oliver, has attacked “environmental and other radical groups” working to stop tar sands exports. He has focused particular ire on groups getting money from outside Canada, implying that they’re acting as a fifth column for left-wing foreign interests. At a time of widespread federal budget cuts, the Conservatives have given Canada’s tax agency extra resources to audit registered charities. It’s widely assumed that environmental groups opposing the tar sands are a main target.
This coercive climate prevents Canadians from having an open conversation about the tar sands. Instead, our nation behaves like a gambler deep in the hole, repeatedly doubling down on our commitment to the industry.
President Obama rejected the pipeline last year but now must decide whether to approve a new proposal from TransCanada, the pipeline company. Saying no won’t stop tar sands development by itself, because producers are busy looking for other export routes — west across the Rockies to the Pacific Coast, east to Quebec, or south by rail to the United States. Each alternative faces political, technical or economic challenges as opponents fight to make the industry unviable.
Mr. Obama must do what’s best for America. But stopping Keystone XL would be a major step toward stopping large-scale environmental destruction, the distortion of Canada’s economy and the erosion of its democracy.
Thomas Homer-Dixon, who teaches global governance at the Balsillie School of International Affairs, is the author of “The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity and the Renewal of Civilization.”
They backed a bill that would strip the confidentiality provision from an existing law that governs access to information on major public-private partnerships involving theMaine Department of Transportation.
But DOT officials said the bill would not apply to the east-west highway project. They also said that if the bill passes, it could discourage businesses from forming partnerships with the department because proprietary information might be disclosed, which would hamper economic development.
Assistant House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, said his bill, L.D. 721, was motivated by constituent concerns surrounding the proposed $2 billion project, which would run from the Calais area on the New Brunswick border to the Coburn Gore area on the Quebec border.
McCabe told the Transportation Committee that much of the opposition to the east-west highway, especially north of his district in Somerset County, “is based on the lack of information that’s out there.”
In written testimony, McCabe said the bill was not specifically about the east-west highway but was aimed at fostering more informed community discussion of major transportation projects.
“If you drive around rural Somerset and Piscataquis (counties), the opposition has become visible to say the least,” McCabe said. “Transportation planning decisions, capital investment decisions and project decisions, particularly in these challenging economic times, are definitely matters of public concern.”
The bill would remove the DOT’s authority to restrict public access to records from transportation projects with an “initial capital cost” of $25 million or more, or when the project would establish tolls on roads that were previously toll-free.
Records related to such public-private partnerships are now confidential until the DOT determines a project meets agency standards or until the proposal is finally rejected by the department.
Bruce Van Note, deputy commissioner of the Maine DOT, said the east-west corridor proposal is currently a private project, outside the scope of the law allowing the department to participate in public-private partnerships.
Furthermore, he said, there’s never been an application to the department for any public-private partnership.
But after his testimony, Van Note acknowledged that the DOT has sent mixed messages on the project.
In March 2012, DOT Commissioner David Bernhardt appeared at a New Brunswick forum with Peter Vigue, the Cianbro Corp. president and CEO who is the highway project’s main champion. The Bangor Daily News reported then that Bernhardt referenced the possibility of a public-private partnership.
In April, DOT spokesman Ted Talbot said a feasibility study could include examining a variety of public-private partnerships that would make the highway project economically viable.
Last year, the Legislature also directed the DOT to conduct a $300,000 economic feasibility study of the highway. Gov. Paul LePage, a project supporter, slowed the study last year after a Republican senator’s constituents raised concerns. Van Note said the DOT has spent “a few thousand dollars” to draft a request-for-proposal to conduct the study, which drew no response.
When Rep. Wayne Parry, R-Arundel, said the state was acting “as an outside entity,” on what is now a private project, McCabe said he questioned whether it could work in that manner.
“It is a branch of government and I think something we should push for as much transparency on as possible,” he said.
Shenna Bellows, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, said confidentiality protections are too broad, and McCabe’s bill would benefit future public-private partnerships, even if there aren’t any now.
In written testimony, Bellows said “no agency should receive a blanket exception for all activities surrounding a particular program.”
But Van Note and Peter Mills, executive director of the Maine Turnpike Authority, said allowing public view of partnership documents in projects’ infancies would render the public-private program meaningless.
Both added that they have never received public-private partnership applications, but they said companies considering large investments in Maine need protection from competition before the department acts on project details.
“If you’re going to remove this confidentiality provision, get rid of (the partnerships),” Mills said. “Repeal it. Don’t leave it on the books as a false representation that they’re available in this state because without these confidentiality provisions, you probably don’t have a workable tool.”
Much of the public hearing, though, served as a referendum on the east-west highway project, with residents of communities near the corridor’s proposed route speaking not just to transparency, but to criticisms of the highway project.
Charles Fitzgerald of Atkinson, a Piscataquis County town just east of Dover-Foxcroft, said he and many others are concerned because if the project is approved, it might not be just a road, but a 2,000-foot corridor that would cut through sensitive environmental areas.
In a 2012 interview with MaineBiz, Vigue said the project could be more than a highway: It could be a “transportation, utility and communications corridor” that the magazine described as “a 2,000-foot-wide swath that leaves room for future needs — whatever they might be.”
And Robert Morrison, of Charleston in western Penobscot County, said the scope of the project leaves the possibility open to an oil pipeline running alongside the highway.
“Would you want a partner that kept secrets from you? Particularly a partner that had tried to deceive you for a year or more?” he asked legislators. “No, no, no.”
Michael Shepherd can be contacted at 620-7015 or at:
The decision was a blow to conservationists who had used the permit process to block the silty runoff from logging, which they said choked forest streams. The ruling also suggested that at least some members of the court may be open to a fundamental re-examination of how federal courts approach determinations by administrative agencies.
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority in the 7-to-1 decision, said the agency’s conclusion that no permits were required was entitled to deference. “It is well established,” he wrote, “that an agency’s interpretation need not be the only possible reading of a regulation — or even the best one — to prevail.”
That is indeed settled law, but Justice Antonin Scalia, in a long and slashing dissent, said it was time to reconsider the idea that an agency may not only promulgate regulations but also say what they mean.
In a concurrence, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., joined by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., said the case decided Wednesday was not a proper one in which to reconsider a basic principle “going to the heart of administrative law.” But he added that Justice Scalia’s dissent amounted to an invitation for a new case squarely presenting the issue.
Justice Kennedy acknowledged that discharges from logging roads are significant in rainy Oregon, contain “large amounts of sediment” and “can harm fish and other aquatic organisms.” But he said the agency was entitled to find that permits were not required under its regulations, though they were susceptible to more than one meaning.
Oregon also regulates storm-water runoff, Justice Kennedy added, and the federal agency “could reasonably have concluded that further federal regulation in this area would be duplicative or counterproductive.”
Justice Scalia wrote that the better reading of the regulations was to require permits. An exception for natural runoff does not apply, he said, when the water flows through ditches, culverts and the like. And, he added, another part of the regulations specifically lists logging as one of the covered industries.
Just days before the case was argued in December, the agency issued a clearer interpretation saying no permits were required. State and federal officials urged the court to rule that the case was, as a consequence, moot. But all eight justices agreed that the logging companies remained subject to potential penalties under the old interpretation, keeping the case alive.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer did not participate in the two consolidated cases decided Wednesday, Decker v. Northwest Environmental Defense Center, No. 11-338, and Georgia-Pacific West v. Northwest Environmental Defense Center, No. 11-347. Judge Charles R. Breyer, the justice’s brother, had sat on the appeals court panel whose decision was under review.
East West Highway proposal seeks public funding to pay investors
Cianbro’s budget for East West Highway project in 2008 $:
Included in Cianbro’s East West Highway $2.145 billion budget (Private capital):
2 lanes with alternating truck lane
2000 FT Right-of-way
Allotment for 170 miles acquisition out of 220 mile road
100 miles of frontage roads (from Calais to Costigan only)
Not included in Cianbro’s East West Highway budget (State capital):
125 kilometers of existing roadway upgrade in Quebec
Toll collection system design, development, and deploymentincluding equipment
Communications infrastructure to support tolling system
Environmental documentation and permitting
Maintenance and services
Ultimate widening of facility (from 2 lanes to 4 lanes)
Investment grade feasibility study
“the East West Highway is not an attractive investment unless some financial contribution is provided by the state/provincial entities…” (p. 44)
SOURCE: 2008 East West Highway Conceptual Feasibility Study Calais to Coburn Gore commissioned by Cianbro Corp. and prepared by Louis C. Berger Group, Inc. http://www.stopthecorridor.org/resources/media/EWhwyConceptFeasStudy.pdf
Public Private Partnership means massive government handouts with no public revenue return
“The proposal must limit the use of state capital funding to less than 50% of initial capital cost of the transportation facility…”
SOURCE: State of Maine Statute, Title 23 Sec. 4251 Public-Private Partnerships; Transportation Projects http://www.stopthecorridor.org/resources/media/title23sec4251.pdf
“Although P3s are advertised as tapping the power of private capital markets to invest in public infrastructure, the reality is that P3 investors enjoy large public subsidies. For example, private companies building P3 highway projects now routinely expect states to grant them authority to issue qualified private activity bonds (PABs). Unlike most lending in private capital markets, interest payments on PABs are exempt from federal taxes… Since the bonds are not taxed, they allow the borrower to obtain cash at less cost. This form of financing, then, is essentially a tax cut for the investment banks and corporations with the P3 contract. The U.S. Department of Transportation also routinely grants Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loans to P3 developers. TIFIA loans provide companies with much cheaper interest rates and more flexible terms than anything available in the private capital markets—again because the public subsidizes them.”
SOURCE: “Highway Robbery” by Darwin Bondgraham, Nov/Dec 2012 Dollars and Sense: Real World Economics http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2012/1112bondgraham.html
Private transportation projects are paid for by the public
“A recent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report [states] ‘the case is sometimes made that using funds from private capital markets to finance roads can increase the resources available to build, operate, and maintain roads,’ the report notes ‘but the sources of revenues available to pay for the cost of a highway project—whether it uses the traditional financing approach or a Public Private Partnership—are the same: specifically tolls paid by users or taxes collected by either the federal government or by state and local governments.’”
SOURCE: “Highway Robbery” by Darwin Bondgraham, Nov/Dec 2012 Dollars and Sense: Real World Economics http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2012/1112bondgraham.html
“There is no debate about whether public borrowing costs are lower than the private sector’s. Defenders of road privatization may argue that private-sector efficiencies will offset the private sector’s higher borrowing costs, but there is little evidence that those efficiencies, where they exist, can make up for higher cost of capital.” (p. 25)
SOURCE: 2009 Private Roads, Public Costs: The facts About Toll Road Privatization and How to Protect the Public, U.S. PIRG Education Fund http://www.stopthecorridor.org/resources/media/PrivRdsPubCosts09.pdf
1999 State of Maine East West Highway study says adverse economic impacts
In 1999, the MDOT studied the impacts of comparable highways in New England as a basis to understand the impact of an East West Highway would have on Maine. They looked at the economic impacts that the construction of I89 and I91 had in Vermont and New Hampshire. The findings were:
The downtowns of the rural towns along the routes were gutted of their local businesses and associated jobs.
There were jobs created at the existing cities along the highways primarily in chain stores.
The jobs created at retail chain stores came at the direct expense of the rural downtowns along the interstates. It was a job transfer away from the rural areas, with no net job gains for the state.
No increased population growth came to areas along the interstates.
The interstates did not halt the pre-existing out-migration trend in the rural areas.
There was no significant Canadian investment outside of 100 miles of Montreal.
The manufacturing industry in these states continued to decline.
The MDOT concluded that an East West Highway through Maine would bring no “real economic benefit” and that the harmful “bypass effects” on the communities located on or near the route did not justify building a new four lane highway in Maine.
SOURCE: 1999 A Summary of the Findings of Studies Regarding a Maine East-West Highway prepared by the Maine Department of Transportation.
SOURCE: 1999 Maine East-West Highway Economic Impact Analysis Phase IV Techinical Report Case Study Research
by Steve Watson Tuesday, Dec 18, 2007
from InfoWars Website
North America’s SuperCorridor Coalition (NASCO), often referred to as a principle player in the proposal for a “NAFTA superhighway”, has hit out at presidential candidate and Texas Congressman Ron Paul, branding him as “confused” and stating that it’s business “has nothing to do with any of his concerns” over the increasing move towards a North American Union.
This superhighway would connect Mexico, the United States and Canada, cutting a wide swath through the middle of Texas and through Kansas City. One proposed path takes the superhighway right through Iowa. This superhighway can be built only by sacrificing family farms through eminent domain.
Melvin and NASCO respond with the following:
Paul states the NAFTA superhighway will cut a wide swath through Iowa. For decades, I-35 has carried international trade with Canada, the United States and Mexico. Since the enactment of NAFTA, people have referred to the existing I-35 with the slogan “NAFTA superhighway” because it is a major north-south artery that moves a substantial amount of international trade.
Recently, there have been rumors of a new NAFTA superhighway – a giant new highway being planned to link the three countries – and North America’s SuperCorridor Coalition Inc.’s promotional map has been used erroneously as proof that a blueprint of the proposed giant highway is, in fact, a reality.
NASCO can state unequivocally that plans for a new giant NAFTA superhighway do not exist. Our map depicts existing transportation infrastructure not drawn to scale, but enlarged for promotional purposes.
Paul is confused and has tied separate initiatives together into a sinister plot to destroy the sovereignty of the United States. NASCO has nothing to do with any of his concerns. NASCO is good for Iowa.
There is no dispute over the existence of the NAFTA superhighway, NASCO admits that it already exists in the form of I35 and other connecting roads. NASCO is claiming that the proposal to link Canada, the US and Mexico does not exist on the basis of semantics by insinuating that NAFTA trade corridors do not incorporate the building of a “new” superhighway by NASCO itself.
“non-profit organization dedicated to developing the world’s first international, integrated and secure, multi-modal transportation system along the International Mid-Continent Trade and Transportation Corridor to improve both the trade competitiveness and quality of life in North America.”
It has received $250 million in earmarks from the U.S. Department of Transportation to adapt existing roads as part of one NAFTA trade corridor. Reports indicate that proposals include a 10-lane limited-access road (five lanes in each direction) plus passenger and freight rail lines running alongside pipelines laid for oil and natural gas. One glance at the map of the NAFTA Super Highway as produced by NASCO makes clear that the design is to connect Mexico, Canada, and the U.S. into one transportation system.
Toll roads are to be placed upon existing roads in Security Prosperity Partnership agreements that bypasses Congress, agreements between the bureaucracies of the US and Mexican governments, to raise capital to build the Superhighway that will go South of Texas and into Mexico.
Security Prosperity Partnership documents reveal that out of 85 interstate highways, 83 of them are slated to go under this agreement and toll roads are going down on them already. The money from this operation with further fund the dismantling of US sovereignty by seizing the infrastructure at it’s very heart in a bloodless coup.
The highway is to be linked to the Trans-Texas Corridor the first leg of the highway which will connect Mexico with the US. This is being overseen by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) which is a member of NASCO. The Trans-Texas Corridor is a separate part of the physical infrastructure but is being built as part of overall plans to deepen the integration of Mexico, the United States, and Canada in a North American economic community that is a precursor to further union.
The NAFTA corridor movement also involves CANAMEX, another trade organization that promotes a Western tri-lateral route utilizing I-19, I-10, I-93 and I-15 in the states of Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Idaho and Montana to link the three countries in trade. See below (click to enlarge).
Another non-profit group, the North American Forum on Integration (NAFI), identifies four bands of NAFTA corridors (Pacific, West, East and Atlantic), all relying primarily upon internationalizing north-south existing interstate highways into NAFTA trade corridors. Read below.
The NAFI website states the following:
“Following the implementation of NAFTA, coalitions of interest have been formed in order to promote specific transport channels, to develop the infrastructures of these channels and to propose jurisdictional amendments to facilitate the crossing of borders. These coalitions include businesses, government agencies, civil organizations, metropolitan areas, rural communities and also individuals, wishing to strengthen the commercial hubs of their regions.”
“The North American trade corridors are bi- or tri-national channels for which various cross-border interests have grouped together in order to develop or consolidate the infrastructures. The North American corridors are considered multimodal in the sense that they bring into play different modes of transport in succession.”
“The infrastructures may include roads, highways, transit routes, airports, pipelines, railways and train stations, river canal systems and port facilities, telecommunications networks and teleports.”
CANAMEX was one of the first north-south corridors designated as a High Priority Corridor under the National Highway Systems Designation Act. Actively pursued by Alberta since the early 1990’s, the CANAMEX Trade Corridor links Canada, the United States and Mexico and stretches 6,000 km from Alaska to Mexico, truly a pan-American corridor.
The goals of the CANAMEX Trade Corridor are to:
Improve access for the north-south flow of goods, people and information
Increase transport productivity and reduce transport costs
Promote a seamless and efficient intermodal transport system
Reduce administration and enforcement costs through harmonized regulations
Of course, as we have highlighted, such improvements and efforts to increase the flow of traffic requires immense funding (hence the tolls roads which come with their own threat to freedom of movement) and will incorporate enlargements to existing road networks. Enlargements that DO constitute the “building of a new” Superhighway and WILL threaten anyone who owns property wherever the enlargements need to be made.
An article in MIT’s Technology Review magazine, for June 30, 2006, provides in-depth insight as to how the Spanish company Cintra has become a leading player in superhighway toll road projects in both Canada and the US. In 1999 Cintra, working in conjunction with Australia’s Macquarie Bank, won a 99-year contract to operate Toronto’s Highway 407 toll road, now already built and operating in 2007, which happens to run along Canada’s premier NAFTA trade corridor.
Cintra is also contracted to operate toll roads in Indiana and on the Trans-Texas Corridor.
At the end of January we reported on the revelation that one of Cintra’s conglomerate partners, the afore mentioned Macquarie, has agreed to buy dozens of newspapers in Texas and Oklahoma that have up until now been harsh critics of the Trans Texas Corridor superhighway. This indicates a clear example of influence peddling pointing to racketeering, and a desperate lunge to silence dissent against the sellout of American infrastructure and the North American Union.
Further evidence of the future planning for the various roads comprising the “superhighway” can be found in Canadian policy documents. Firstly a document prepared last year for the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada entitled Embracing the Future:
The Atlantic Gateway and Canada’s Trade Corridor states:
Since the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement was signed with the US, later expanded to become NAFTA, Canadians have reoriented their trade links away from a national focus (east-west) to a North American focus (north-south)….
As globalization proceeds, not as an offset to US-Canada trade or NAFTA enlargement and integration, but as a close complimentary advantage, Canada must adjust its thinking and design transportation strategies accordingly….
Again we see a call for “an adjustment of thinking” in accordance with NAFTA enlargement and integration.
Canada’s New Government has developed a National Policy Framework for Strategic Gateways and Corridors to advance the competitiveness of the Canadian economy in the rapidly changing field of global commerce…. Future federal gateway and corridor strategies will be guided by this framework, focused on transportation systems of road, rail, marine and air infrastructure of national significance to international commerce.
The Ontario-Quebec Continental Gateway and Trade Corridor represents the North Eastern portion of the “NAFTA superhighway” depicted on NASCO’s map of existing road networks.
The mainstream media will keep telling you none of this is real, that its on a par with invading space aliens and that if you believe in any of it you are totally crazy. And NASCO, who as we have shown are a major player, will keep using semantics to insinuate anyone who talks about it is “confused” or has “erroneously tied them into a sinister plot”.
Of course, as with a great deal of the agenda for a North American Union, there is no all encompassing “sinister plot”, it operates very bureaucratically, yet without Congressional oversight, and is unfolding piecemeal for everyone to see.
However, this does not mean it has not been carefully planned is not a threat to the Sovereignty of America, Canada and Mexico.
The agenda is being driven by elitist private interests operating in cooperation with the globalist think tanks and lobbyists who have usurped the overriding interests and responsibilities of our governments for their own corporate gain and the power that brings to them. They consequently have no duty to the prosperity of the countries involved and the people who populate them, despite being intimately involved in the fundamental operation of the infrastructure.
For NASCO to therefore declare that their business “has nothing to do with any of his concerns” when referring to Ron Paul‘s exposure of such activity represents the height of arrogance and insults the intelligence of any free thinking person living in America, Canada and Mexico.