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Oil pipeline from Canada stirring anger in U.S. Great Plains - And Koch profits

Oil pipeline from Canada stirring anger in U.S. Great Plains | McClatchy
(McClatchy provides a perspective on TransCanada from the US farmers viewpoint)

WASHINGTON — Crude oil from western Canada began flowing through a controversial pipeline in Kansas last week. Supporters say that construction of the Keystone Pipeline — which flows down through the Dakotas and Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri to refineries in Illinois and Oklahoma — provided an economic boon, producing money and jobs.

But in Kansas, local officials along the pipeline's path think that the state sold them out — unnecessarily — to get the pipeline. Because of an exemption the state gave the company that owns it — Alberta-based TransCanada — the local officials won't see a dime in property taxes from the project for a decade, a loss they estimate at $50 million in public revenue.

"If we had that pipeline on the tax rolls this year, we could have cut our levy by 30 to 40 percent," said Dan Holub, a county commissioner in Marion County, Kan. "Rural counties don't have much of a tax base and a whole bunch of expenses. We've got 1,600 miles of road. People have got to be able to get to them."

Supporters of the pipeline deal counter that the company will owe taxes for 90 years after the abatement expires. They said the project also would help the state's shrunken oil industry. But questions persist about whether TransCanada used the power of eminent domain improperly. It used eminent domain to obtain an easement through Greg Roles' 160 acres of wheat and soybeans in Clay Center, Kan. He resisted TransCanada's $15,000 offer and now is suing the company in a case that could end up before the Kansas Supreme Court on appeal after he lost in district court.

"I'm the only guy who has tried to stand in front of them," he said. "I know I'm the only guy in Kansas. This deal just isn't right. Where are our elected officials?"

The debate is likely to intensify. TransCanada plans to use its Kansas pipeline as a pivotal piece in a new, $7 billion, nearly 1,700-mile project to transport heavy oil from Canadian tar sands to refineries in Texas. If it's approved, it could carry up to 500,000 barrels a day, doubling the amount of oil that TransCanada brings in overall...

....Approval of a cross-border permit will be up to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Several members of Congress urged her in a letter last summer to go slowly with her decision, which is expected by spring after the State Department looks at the pipeline's environmental impact. Others lawmakers wrote in support of the project. The Environmental Protection Agency said the State Department's original report last year was "unduly narrow" because it didn't fully look at oil spill response plans, safety issues and greenhouse gas concerns.

If the administration signs off on the pipeline, it would inadvertently be aiding two of President Barack Obama's arch political foes: David and Charles Koch, who own Koch Industries.  The Wichita-based oil giant is the second largest privately held company in the U.S., with annual revenues estimated at about $100 billion.

The Kochs have bankrolled conservative efforts and candidates who oppose Obama and the Democratic Party's environmental policies. According to Solve Climate news, an energy and climate online news service, the Koch brothers would stand to gain from the project because their company controls nearly a quarter of all tar sands crude oil that's imported into the U.S.

Extracting oil from tar sands and liquefying it enough so it will move through a pipeline is an energy-intensive process that adds greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Getting it out of the ground involves clear-cutting forests, leaving a wasteland that oil companies say they will restore. Some scientists say that rivers also become polluted.

"From start to finish, this a dirty project," said Stephanie Cole, a spokeswoman for the Kansas chapter of the Sierra Club. "Forests in Canada are being destroyed, and increased reliance on fossil fuels will accelerate global

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