Protest against Keystone Pipeline in Lowell last night

Lowell architect Jay Mason was one of many positioned outside the Steve Lynch fundraiser at the Blue Shamrock last night, holding signs that urged Lynch to reverse his support for the Keystone XL pipeline. Jay has written an Open Letter to Lynch and all other candidates for office in Massachusetts, explaining why Keystone is such a bad idea. Here is Jay’s letter:


Last night at the Blue Shamrock a good crowd of locals came out to a fund-raiser for Stephen F. Lynch, candidate for senate. They were greeted by a civil and enthusiastic crowd of 25 sign-holding climate action supporters. The signs said, “No Keystone XL” and “vote climate”. They had gathered to bring attention to the fact that candidate Lynch has twice voted in support of the Keystone XL pipeline.

This pipeline proposal sits on the desk of President Obama who has the sole power to nix or approve a permit which would allow the continued construction of the pipeline. If constructed, the 1200-mile, 36” pipeline would carry up to 800,000 barrels/day of tar sands, a relatively new oil-product obtained in a strip mining technique. The tar sands would ship from Alberta, Canada’s boreal forest where oil companies already mine an area that would be expanded to approximately the size of Rhode Island, across the international border into Montana or North Dakota and then south to Texas and the gulf. (see attached map)

This pipeline is a bad deal for many reasons. While it can be said that the pipeline would not physically pass through Massachusetts, Obama’s approval would mean less resistance to the Montreal to Portland, ME pipeline which would mean tar sands in our back yards. The sales from the strictly overseas destinations for the tar sands from Keystone would mean increased profits for big oil. Additionally, the environmental risks are significant and overwhelmingly balance against the fairly trivial economic benefit from the planned construction jobs. This fact is well documented. (note: it has been said that the pipeline project would only provide 35-permanent, full-time jobs)

I have a small business based in Lowell. I also have children. I cannot stand on the sidelines watching what our elected officials do in the execution of their duties when those actions lead to further miss-steps with regard to energy policy and the environment. Time is running out. Candidate Lynch and the others… I hope you are listening and can see that I am not alone in this fight. Those interested in joining me please feel free to reach me at
jayRmason[at] or contact

Keystone XL pipeline

3 Responses to Protest against Keystone Pipeline in Lowell last night

  1. kad barma says:

    Already 80% of current bitumen extraction (“tar sand” is not what is piped) is accomplished via in situ drilling (not strip mining) and increasingly via steam-assisted gravity drainage, with a dozen or more directionally-drilled wells managed per surface installation. Which is to say, “oil sands” fields overwhelmingly appear far differently than our imaginings of traditional oil wells and pumping stations, let alone the initial experimentation with the first fields of surface bitumen used to test the economics of larger scale bitumen refining and create the bogeyman photographs now traded by environmentally-concerned opponents. Over 90% of the stuff is inaccessible via surface mining. Over 90%. So let’s, first of all, talk about the facts, and not the hyperbole.

    It’s a fact that bitumen production generally requires around 12% more energy to refine than traditional crude oil, primarily to heat the steam used to extract it. That’s both a cost and an added “greenhouse gas” concern.

    It’s a fact that there have been successful reclamation of disturbed land (Gateway Hill is the first area reclaimed, and the Alberta government tracks disturbed areas publicly at despite what alarmists at Sierra Club and elsewhere have claimed.

    It’s a fact that the permitted area is roughly the size of the state of Florida. It’s also a fact that, as noted above, 90% of it is not going to be roughed up they way many have opportunistically tried to claim owing to the in-situ drilling and multi-well techniques now being used.

    But most of all I find it disingenuous that Democrats plumping for Markey will try to use this sort of red herring to tear down Stephen Lynch’s candidacy. I have relatives living relatively short distances from oil sands fields, and living off of the land in the boreal region of Alberta. None of them would agree with what has been put into this letter, and they are far more rightfully aggrieved at any potential for environmental malfeasance than any of us here. Seriously, Dick, we get it that you don’t like Stephen Lynch’s candidacy as it threatens that of your favorite candidate, Ed Markey. We get it. But this sort of poorly researched hyperbole is hardly fitting. I take it as a mark against Markey that his supporters will resort so quickly to misinformation to advance their man and their agenda.

  2. Jay Mason says:

    The objections raised to my post appear to consist of the following two statements, 1) tar sands are not what it is that is pumped, and 2) the process used to extract tar sands (in my words) is not strip mining.

    1) The name for the material in this 1,200 mile pipeline- The response from Kad Barma says they are more accurately called “bitumen”.

    So I looked it up-
    #1 Asphalt also known as bitumen, is a sticky, black and highly liquid or semi-solid form of Petroleum. It may be found in natural deposits or may be a refined product.
    Bitumen- an asphalt of Asia Minor used in ancient times as a cement and mortar.
    Any of various mixtures of hydrocarbons (as tar) often together with their nonmetallic derivatives that occur naturally or are obtained as residues after heat-refining natural substances (as petroleum); specifically : such a mixture soluble in carbon disulfide.

    Seems to my thinking that “a sticky, semi-solid form of petroleum or tar” sounds just as bad as “tar sands” and possibly worse.

    2) Second, the assertion is that bitumen is not removed by strip mining. The response says that “bitumen extraction is accomplished via in situ drilling (not strip mining) and increasingly via steam-assisted gravity drainage, with a dozen or more directionally-drilled wells managed per surface installation.” The pipeline will have the capacity to transport 800,000 barrels per day. I wonder if Kad could tell us how much steam it takes to extract 800,000 barrels worth of bitumen in one day? Or what happens to that wasted, dirty steam when it is spent? I’d be very interested in learning more about the tar sands/bitumen extraction but at the end of the day I’m much more concerned about what the potential for higher carbon dioxide levels in our environment is.

    The burning of fossil fuels, including bitumen/tar sands contributes to higher C02 levels and higher temperatures. Whether you support Lynch or Markey or one of the GOP candidates you are affected when temperatures rise. Warmer air holds more moisture and leads to bigger, more dangerous storms. The ice caps melt and the higher seas threaten coastal areas. We all share in the environmental malfeasance you mention in your response. This is not about Stephen Lynch (although he twice voted for the pipeline), this is about all politicians being held accountable for the implications of their actions.

    Spill and subsequent fire from a broken pipeline.

  3. kad barma says:

    The engineering estimates on the amount of energy required to process bitumen is 12% higher than for crude oil. Extraction costs are currently around $27 a barrel. I think it’s valuable for everyone to work off of reliable figures and not conjecture.

    I’m also not arguing against the advantages of renewable energy sources. I fully support Cape Wind and other better alternatives, and ramping them up as quickly as possible to take over the load. However, it remains that the US suffers both a trade imbalance as well as an energy deficit that trading in Canadian sources will improve. (The pipelines from Quebec I had understood to be for natural gas, but I’m open to suggestion otherwise if the facts are different). Making Canadian “tar sands” oil available in the world market will help offset higher prices even for those amounts not consumed here in North America.

    I will further support the statement that politicians should be held fairly accountable for their votes and actions. Lynch has supported the “tar sands” pipeline, and sharing that information with the electorate is important. It’s likewise critically important that the information about those votes (what is being piped, how it is extracted, what it takes to refine, etc.) is accurate as part of that sharing. Bitumen production produces more greenhouse gasses (that 12% addition energy required) and strip mining (that 10% of the Alberta project) is environmentally severe. Directional drilling and other extraction techniques are mitigating elements, and need to be understood as well.

    As for my support, I will evaluate the candidates over the coming weeks to determine who might best represent my interests and that of the Commonwealth. Ed Markey and Stephen Lynch seem credible and qualified from their time in the House. It’s a benefit to all of us that we have such high-quality choices.