Pipeline proposal offers too many risks

Pipeline proposal offers too many risks

Letter to the Editor

By Ed Nizalowski

Published: September 2, 2011
Press and Sun-Bulletin

The Keystone XL Pipeline Project is being proposed as a way to bring oil from the tar sands of Alberta to the refineries of the Gulf Coast. It is a project that has alarmed thousands of environmentalists and launched one of the largest acts of civil disobedience in the history of environmentalism in this country. As of Aug. 28, 381 people have been arrested and 2,100 have committed themselves to do likewise.

What has caused this concern? In the words of NASA scientist James Hansen, the pipeline is "a 1,500-mile fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the continent, a way to make it easier and faster to trigger the final overheating of our planet."

Simply being another source of non-renewable petroleum is not the only concern. Turning the tar sands into usable energy makes it one of the world's dirtiest fuels. It takes three barrels of water to create one barrel of oil. The amount needed is staggering: 400 million gallons of water per day, with 90 percent of that water going into tailing ponds which become home to a toxic sludge containing, among other things, cyanide and ammonia.

The toll on the indigenous people of Alberta has been devastating. Their way of life and health are being compromised with populations experiencing elevated rates of cancer, renal failure, lupus and hyperthyroidism.

If approved and completed, the Keystone XL Pipeline will be one of the longest crude oil pipelines in the world and one of the most ambitious construction projects in world history. It will expand a current pipeline network that goes as far as Cushing, Okla. Tar sands oil is already coming into the country with a track record for spills that should raise red flags: In 2010, there were 11 times that the pipeline failed.

Part of the problem is that tar sands oil is more corrosive and gritty. Because of this, it must be transported at a higher temperature, and that causes more strain on pipeline material and joints. It was tar sands oil that caused the spill in Kalamazoo, Mich., in which 850,000 barrels were spilled. In July, it was tar sands oil that fouled the Yellowstone River in Montana with 1,000 barrels of crude. The proposed pipeline will cross a number of sensitive habitats including the Ogllala aquifer in Nebraska.

The company behind the pipeline, TransCanada, has applied for a permit from the U.S. State Department. The State Department has given the project a green light saying that the project is unlikely to cause significant environmental problems either in it construction or operation.

The president has the power to deny the request. If you feel that the Keystone XL Pipeline Project is a mistake, go to the website for Tar Sands Action, www.tarsandsaction.org, to keep up with the latest in this controversy and contribute to those who are directly challenging Big Oil

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