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New concerns in Congress over planned Keystone XL pipeline


With continuing spill problems on the Keystone pipeline carrying oil extracted from Canada's tar sands to the U.S., there are growing demands for a broader review before any approval of a second Keystone XL pipeline, proposed to carry the controversial product across the U.S. heartland to Texas.

In a letter this week to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson, 34 members of Congress urged the State Department to hold off on granting an international permit for the second pipeline until a range of potential concerns is addressed. Download letter from Congress

These include the possible heightened risk of pipeline spills as a result of the corrosive effects of tar sands oil and studying how importing a relatively carbon-intensive product such as tar sands oil fits with the Obama administration's goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and overall oil imports.

The proposed 36-inch-wide Keystone XL pipeline would run 1,711 miles from northern Alberta to Port Arthur and Harris County, Texas, transporting up to 700,000 barrels a day.

The State Department in April issued a supplemental Environmental Impact Statement looking at some of the concerns raised over the pipeline, which would cross one of the nation's major agricultural aquifers in Nebraska.

In their new letter, the lawmakers said they are concerned that the department still has not addressed all the potential pitfalls, many of them outlined earlier by the EPA. "In fact, EPA gave the draft EIS its lowest possible rating," the lawmakers' letter said, adding that after reviewing the new supplemental document, "we still do not believe that the State Department has sufficiently addressed EPA's concerns."

At least 12 spills, mostly small ones, have been reported on the original Keystone pipeline since May 2010. Most have occurred at pump stations rather than along the main route of the pipeline.

The biggest spill occurred May 8 of this year, when about 400 barrels were released in Sargent County, N.D., after a valve blew at a pump station. Operators at TransCanada, builder of both pipelines, detected a loss in pressure and shut down the line nine minutes after the leak, but not before it blew a 60-foot-high geyser of oil into the air, according to local news reports.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club and other opponents have argued that conventional pipeline design regulations are inadequate for the more corrosive properties of tar sands oil, carried at high pressure.

TransCanada officials say oil carried through the pipeline would not be substantially different in its physical properties from oil transported in other pipelines.

The State Department, which is accepting comments on the new draft EIS, is expected to make a decision by the end of the year. The members of Congress in their letter urged the department to conduct field hearings in each state through which the pipeline would pass.


Proposed Keystone XL pipeline is attracting controversy in oil-friendly Texas

State Dept. orders supplemental review of Keystone XL pipeline

-- Kim Murphy

Photo: A 2008 aerial view just north of Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada, where the world's largest oil companies are building massive open-pit mines to extract bitumen locked in the oil sands there. Credit: Eamon Mac Mahon, Associated Press/Canadian Press

Comments () | Archives (8)

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The US does not need one drop of Canadian oil period!

All that has to be done is to build a thousand oil rigs similar to the Deepwater Horizon and have British Petrolium managing this gulf of mexico energy project.

And if this does not interest the gulf states then wise men should invest in "green energy rickshaws" and have their grandmothers and grandfathers pull them around town.

You know you peeps need to read more here are some facts about co2 as of 2006

1) china produces 20.6% of world co2
2) usa produces 20.2% of world co2
3)canada produces 2.2% of world co2

so draw your own conclusions
i think people should stop worrying about 2% of the world emissions and start worrying about 40% of the world emissions

To the person who posted "Ask yourselves, from whom would you rather get your oil from, the Canadians or the Arab states?": Do you really think this is comparing apples and oranges? What a gross oversimplification of this issue! Not only is extracting oil from tar sands is destructive to the environment, leaks from a pipeline over the western hemisphere's largest aquifer are a potential environmental disaster that needs to be avoided. Are you so desperate for more oil that you'd support the destruction of any environment, habitat, etc. just to get more oil? Are you so desperate for more oil NOW that you'd sacrifice the future of an important water resource? We need alternatives to oil, and can develop them, although it will obviously take some time. There is no alternative to water!! Are you ignorant of what is happening in other parts of the world where water is scarce?
As to where I'd rather get my oil, I'd rather not be so dependent on a dirty energy source.

This pipeline is a benefit to the Canadian Govt. (royalties) and to the producers (profits.)

Right now tar sand crude is economically captive to the northern tier of the US and Canada, just as Alaska North Slope crude was once captive to the West Coast.

Expansion of the pipeline will make money for tar sand producers and probably result in greater tar sand production. Also expect gasoline prices to go up in the northern midwest as refiners are forced to pay a "world" price for supplies.

Life's not fair.

Maybe Nebraska should hold out for a higher franchise fee.

The Keystone XL project is not for American markets. Trans Canada is building this pipeline to push Canadian oil to the Gulf for shipment to other markets (China). In fact, they hope to take some of the Canadian oil already being shipped to the mid-west, which is supposedly in "over supply", and export that too. This will actually increase oil prices throughout the mid-west.

How about expanding ones choices and avoiding false dilemmas?

How about a WATER pipeline from the ast to the west-- we have an ABUNDANCE of the stuff here these days-

but it may disappear with the oncoming Global Warming-

Warming stimulated by oil pipelines and offshore drilling and people who don't want to recognize the realities of fundamental physics and transportation

Ask yourselves, from whom would you rather get your oil from, the Canadians or the Arab states?


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