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Did TransCanada Violate U.S. Securities Disclosure Laws in Keystone XL Push?

3 min. read

At Get Energy Smart! NOW!, Adam Siegel points us to a letter "Greenpeace has sent to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) making a case that TransCanada is potentially in violation of security laws due to its use of inflated job figures as part of a strategic influence campaign to drive the Obama Administration into supporting this misguided and risky venture." According to the letter:

[TransCanada] has consistently used public statements and information it knows are false in a concerted effort to secure permitting approval of KXL from the U.S. government. In the process, it has misled investors, U.S. and Canadian officials, the media, and the public at large in order to bolster its balance sheets and share price. We think these statements violate U.S. securities disclosure laws, notably SEC Rule 10b(5) – Employment of Manipulative and Deceptive Practices. It is incumbent on TRP to immediately and publicly correct this information – or be forced to do so by the Securities and Exchange Commission...

...Specifically, TRP has asserted that each mile of KXL pipeline constructed in the U.S. would create American jobs at a rate that is 67 times higher than job creation totals given by the company to Canadian officials for the Canadian portion of the pipeline.

How misleading TransCanada has been was highlighted recently by Cornell University researchers, who have published the only independent study done to date of the net economic impact of Keystone XL.  The main findings of that report were clear: "The company’s claim that KXL will create 20,000 direct construction and manufacturing jobs in the U.S is not substantiated."  In fact, the Cornell report adds, "By helping to lock in US dependence on fossil fuels, Keystone XL will impede progress toward green and sustainable economic renewal and will have a chilling effect on green investments and green jobs creation."

The fact is, Keystone XL is simply a bad energy investment. As the Globe and Mail explains, "getting this resource out of the ground and ready for refining is expensive, by some estimates the planet’s most costly major oil source." How expensive? According to the Globe and Mail article, Canada's National Energy Board "recently pegged the minimum price needed for new projects to be commercially viable at $85 to $95 (U.S.) a barrel."  With current oil prices around $95-$100 per barrel, this means that the economics of tar sands are "relatively marginal," and that it wouldn't "take a lot to slip them into the red."

As if the questionable economics of tar sands weren't bad enough, there's also the fact that it's an environmentally disaster, with no benefit in terms of kicking the U.S. oil import addiction. As Oil Sands Truth explains, tar sands "are already slated to be the cause of up to the second fastest rate of deforestation on the planet behind the Amazon Rainforest Basin," while "[h]uman health in many communities has seriously taken a turn for the worse with many causes alleged to be from tar sands production." And, as the Carnegie Council points out, "the idea that Keystone XL will decrease America's dependence on foreign oil is demonstrably false," as this is an export pipeline (with the oil headed to China and Europe), but instead will "feed the growing trend of exporting refined products out of the United States, thereby doing nothing to enhance energy security or to stabilize oil prices or gasoline prices at the pump."

The bottom line is clear: the Keystone tar sands export pipeline would not help the United States economically, environmentally, or in any other way. To the contrary, investment in clean, domestic, inexhaustible wind, solar, and other renewable energy sources would boost the U.S. economy, strengthen U.S. national security, and do so without polluting the air and water we rely on. To put it mildly, this is not a difficult choice.