Thursday, September 8, 2011

Oil Spills Add to Concerns about the Keystone XL Pipeline

In addition to its massive footprint, resistance to the Keystone XL pipeline is due to concerns about the environmental destruction that would result from a spill. TreeHugger has called Canadian Tar Sands oil exploitation one of the most destructive projects on earth. If fully developed, the Alberta tar sands would be the second largest source of global warming gases in the world.

We have seen a major spill in the Gulf of Mexico which spewed oil for months before finally being capped on July 15 and more recently the North Sea. The proposed tar sands pipeline is even more problematic as it comes with a host of additional problems. Not only are the tar sands one of the dirtiest energy sources on Earth, pipelines used to transport the oil are commonly subject to spills.

TransCanada's existing Keystone I pipeline, which would connect to the XL, has leaked 14 times in its first year of operation.

The recent Yellowstone River oil spill by ExxonMobil, has spread out over 240 miles. The Keystone XL pipeline could result in a spill twenty times more catastrophic than the Yellowstone River oil spill. That would mean up to 1,000,000 barrels of oil spilled which could travel 4,800 miles.

By some estimates we can expect an average of almost 2 spills per year over the course of the fifty-year life of the Keystone line. Even TransCanada's own estimates indicate a possible eleven spills over the life of the pipeline.

An oil spill in the Keystone XL pipeline also risks contaminating the Ogallala Aquifer, the main source of fresh water for the Great Plains. In addition there are concerns for Nebraska's fragile Sandhills, which lie above the aquifer. This concern has led Nebraska's Republican Gov. Dave Heineman to reject the present course of the pipeline.

© 2011, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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