Follow this blog by Email

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Veto = I Forbid

A veto – Latin for "I forbid" – is the power (used by an officer of the state, for example) to unilaterally stop an official action, especially the enactment of legislation. A veto can be absolute, as for instance in the United Nations Security Council, whose permanent members can block any resolution. Or it can be limited, as in the legislative process of the United States, where a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate may override a Presidential veto of legislation. A veto only gives power to stop changes, not to adopt them (except for the rare "amendatory veto"). Thus a veto allows its holder to protect the status quo.

The concept of a veto body originated with the Roman consuls and tribunes. Either of the two consuls holding office in a given year could block a military or civil decision by the other; any tribune had the power to unilaterally block legislation passed by the Roman Senate.

U.S. President Barack Obama has used his Veto to block a bill passed by both Senate and Congress to allow the Trans-Canada owned Keystone XL Project to proceed. Reason for this veto is the expected negative environmental impact a pipeline of this magnitude might have.

WEBkeystone

Concerns are mainly circling around what impact a possible breach of the pipeline will have on the huge underground aquifer of the Midwest. This water reservoir is the backbone for farmers who need the exceptionally clean water for irrigation of food-producing fields. Another concern is rooted in the anticipation that the pipeline will lead to further developments in the Alberta tar sands which again will contribute to climate gases and with that to global warming.

9630b5a2fe00436cac27While these concerns are real, there are other considerations involved as well. If oil cannot be transported by pipeline it will be transported by rail.

According to Statistics Canada, in 2011, about 68,000 carloads of fuel oils and crude petroleum were moving along Canadian rail lines. In 2012, that rose to nearly 113,000. Between January and September of 2013, some 118,000 carloads had already been moved. The Association of American Railroads estimates 400,000 crude carloads will move in the U.S. in 2013, up from 234,000 in 2012 and just 9,500 in 2008.

Rail industry associations say their products get to their destination safely more than 99 per cent of the time. But the growing volume of oil shipments also heightens the risk of a spill.

oil-train2-1024x680From 2010-2011 there have been 91 rail accidents with leaks of dangerous fluids or gases in Canada. 53 incidents led to fires and explosions.

According to Statistics Canada, in 2011, about 68,000 carloads of fuel oils and crude petroleum were moving along Canadian rail lines. In 2012, that rose to nearly 113,000. Between January and September of 2013, some 118,000 carloads had already been moved. The Association of American Railroads estimates 400,000 crude carloads will move in the U.S. in 2013, up from 234,000 in 2012 and just 9,500 in 2008.

Rail industry associations say their products get to their destination safely more than 99 per cent of the time. But the growing volume of oil shipments also heightens the risk of a spill.

Rail Disaster at Lac Megantic, Quebec

meganticThe total number of rail accidents from 2010-2011 were staggering 2099. All of these happened in Canada only. So when it comes to public safety concerns railroading oil transports don’t seem to be a great choice either.

In order to safeguard oil transport, new technology should be used. Maybe pipelines could be built with double-walled pipes, like big oil tankers now have double hull storage. And if rail transport is the preferred choice, the entire rail track system throughout North America must be upgraded.

On the other side pipeline accidents, even not so numerous, might have disastrous consequences on human life and environment. Also, pipelines are potential targets for terrorist attacks.

The outcome of this debate lies most certainly in the future.

3 comments:

  1. Mr. Obama's veto had nothing at all to do with any real or perceived environmental issues associated with the Keystone XL proposal. As he says in this excerpt from his note to Congress it was really about the fact that the decision is his to make, not Congress's.

    "I am returning herewith without my approval S. 1, the "Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act." Through this bill, the United States Congress attempts to circumvent longstanding and proven processes for determining whether or not building and operating a cross-border pipeline serves the national interest."

    Just another political "point of order".

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your quote left out the part where the President said the act of Congress, "cuts short thorough consideration of issues that could bear on our national interest — including our security, safety, and environment — it has earned my veto." That's fairly clear that he expressed concern over environmental issues. This is only his third veto since being President, so that hardly qualifies as a political "point of order."

      Delete
  2. Honestly I think somehow they will get this through. There are too many power players in the mix to not push it harder.
    But you are right, more safeguards need to be in place for both rail and pipeline.

    ReplyDelete

We like to hear from you. You can add your comment here: