Keystone XL Company Sues Obama and the US for $15 Billion Under NAFTA

By Andrew Follett

The company behind the Keystone XL pipeline filed a $15 billion lawsuit Friday against the Obama administration under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

TransCanada claimed that Obama spent seven years using “arbitrary and contrived” analyses and justifications to delay the pipeline for political reasons. TransCanada’s suit also says that the company had reason to believe that the pipeline would be approved before it was rejected by the Obama administration in November.

“None of that technical analysis or legal wrangling was material to the administration’s final decision,” TransCanada said in its lawsuit. “Instead, the rejection was symbolic and based merely on the desire to make the U.S. appear strong on climate change, even though the State Department had itself concluded that denial would have no significant impact on the environment.”

President Barack Obama rejected the pipeline due to the perception among environmentalists that it would increase global warming. The Keystone XL pipeline would have increased America’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by less than three-tenths of one percent of the country’s total annual CO2 emissions, according to analysis by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Obama’s own U.S. State Department found that the pipeline wouldn’t make global warming worse, would reduce the risk of an oil spill and create more than 42,000 new jobs. If it had been approved by the Obama administration, Keystone would have sent oil sands from Alberta, Canada to American oil refineries on the Gulf Coast.  Republicans pushed Obama to approve the pipeline as it would create jobs.

Despite the State Department and EPA’s findings, Obama vetoed legislation early last to approve Keystone XL as well. Obama’s critics say he was pressured by environmentalist billionaire Tom Steyer, who spent $73 million in the 2014 election supporting Democratic candidates, to veto the project.

Environmental groups heavily pressured Obama to block Keystone as well and immediately used the lawsuit to attack NAFTA and the very idea of free trade agreements, due to their alleged negative impacts on global warming.

“TransCanada’s attempt to make American taxpayers hand over more than $15 billion because the company’s dirty Keystone XL pipeline was rejected shows exactly why NAFTA was wrong and why the even more dangerous and far-reaching Trans-Pacific Partnership must be stopped in its tracks,” Michael Brune, the executive director of The Sierra Club, wrote in a Saturday press statement. “The TPP would empower thousands of new firms operating in the U.S, including major polluters, to follow in TransCanada’s footsteps and undermine our critical climate safeguards in private trade tribunals. Today, we have a prime example of how polluter-friendly trade deals threaten our efforts to tackle the climate crisis.”

Other environmental groups, such as the Natural Resources Defense Council and the World Wildlife Fund, have also spoken out against TPP.

A civil war has erupted between environmentalists and  President Barack Obama and other Democrats over TPP and free trade. The full text of TPP noticeably does not directly address global warming and contains only a token mention of “clean energy.” The green groups say that free trade agreements such as TPP and NAFTA lack environmental protections and will benefit corporations, which will ultimately make global warming worse.

The green pressure against free trade has been so intense that even presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has felt it. Clinton held negotiate TPP and called it “the gold standard” of trade agreements before dramatically changing her position to oppose it during the Democratic primaries.

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