Posts Tagged ‘tar sand’

beforenafter1[1]The Keystone XL pipeline is embroiled in controversy from coast to coast. Environmentalists are rallied by its giant carbon footprint, the damage caused by spills, and the destruction of Canada’s boreal forests. Meanwhile, landowners are being forced to give up their property rights and cope with unacceptable safety issues.

More than thirty Texas waterways will be threatened by Keystone XL pipeline spills.  Tar sand is very difficult to clean up, especially in water.  And, Keystone XL is not required to pay the standard eight cents per barrel tax into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, which means the cost to clean up any spills along the pipeline could become the tax burden of U.S. Citizens.  When tar sand comes into contact with water it begins to separate, leaving the heaviest, thickest product on the bottom.  Meanwhile, benzene and other airborne toxins are lifted to the surface of the water and evaporate into the atmosphere, directly threatening human life.

Burst pipelineLandowners in Texas have been confronted with having a tar sand pipeline cross their farms and ranches.  Ranchers and farmers have no choice where the pipeline lays down on their property.  The easement around the pipe is fifty feet wide, and there will be a kill zone around and under the pipe due to its temperature, which may exceed 158 degrees F. A running pressure of 1,600 pounds per square inch introduces the possibility of a stream with enough force to cut a person in two should a small rupture in the pipe occur.  But, problems with the pipeline do not stop at inherent danger.  The land owners are given a choice of payment for the easement, which requires them to pay taxes on the land under the pipe or, they can have the easement condemned, which leaves them without the right to use that property.  In truth, the land owners have no option when companies such as Keystone XL decide that a pipeline should cross their property, except to deal with the risks, or leave.

To make matters worse, the tar sands that would flow through the Keystone XL pipeline won’t even be used in the U.S. – they are destined for export to foreign countries.  So, we will incur the risks to our land and water and will suffer the consequences of climate change, but we won’t have any more energy security than we do now.  That’s a bad deal.  The risks associated with the Keystone XL pipeline are unacceptable. Most importantly, these risks are avoidable.  Let President Obama know that you want him reject the Keystone XL pipeline because the risks don’t outweigh the benefits.  The recently released draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) from the U.S. Department of State acknowledged that construction of the Keystone XL pipeline would create “numerous” and “substantial” impacts on the environment, but it claims the project is better than the alternatives.  If you disagree, as I do,  send comments on the draft SEIS via email to: [email protected]

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Keystone XL

TransCanada's map for the proposed pipeline.

While the Department of Energy took a step towards cutting the emissions of the state by approving a Carbon Capture and Storage project for Texas which will start early next year, a nasty tar-sand Pipeline is set to penetrate through Texas land and be completed by late 2011. The first segment of the line which extends from Alberta to Illinois has already been completed and will be functioning next month. The second segment (Texas and Oklahoma) of the Keystone XL line will be built by the Canadian oil and pipeline company, TransCanada.

The line will end in Houston, where the crude oil will be refined. In addition to the fact that pipelines are not the safest to be around as we saw a couple of them blow up just in the past week, the line will carry tar-sands, one of the dirtiest sources of oil. This source of oil is estimated to have as much as three times more emissions than other oil sources when produced, keep in mind that it will be refined in Houston, a city that is already in non attainment of federal air quality standards.

TransCanada also applied for a special permit to build the line thinner than what the standards require. The segment already built in Illinois was approved for using a thinner pipe, a method which the United Steelworkers had warned last year that it “would increase the risks of ruptures, leaks and spills and lessen pipeline safety by the use of thinner pipe and greater operating pressure.” State Department approval for the Texas-Oklahoma segment is pending.


By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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