With Keystone XL on hold (for now), bad pipelines still threaten America

At least politically, it’s been relatively quiet on the Keystone XL pipeline front lately. With the presidential election little more than two weeks away, it’s not surprising that the candidates don’t want to stir things up on such a hot button issue. Meanwhile, protestors have been fighting to block a southern section of the massive Canada-to-the-Gulf-of-Mexico pipeline that’s under construction on Texas, but they’d be getting very little attention were it not that movie star Daryl Hannah was arrested the other day.

What seems to be getting lost here, and it’s more proof of why the 2,100 mile Keystone project is such a horrible idea, is that there have been a flurry of spills or alarming reports about the existing state of pipelines in recent days. It’s a reminder of why we simply can’t trust Big Oil and Gas on major safety issues. This recent report is particularly alarming:

Two aging oil and natural gas pipelines running under the sparkling waters of the Straits of Mackinac in northern Michigan are time bombs that could devastate the upper Great Lakes if they rupture, according to a report issued today by the National Wildlife Federation.

The pipelines are owned by Enbridge Inc. and carry an estimated 20 million gallons of oil and natural gas every day under the pristine water from Superior, Wisconsin to Sarnia, Ontario. The company announced in May that it plans to increase the volume of oil it pumps through the lines, a proposal the federation says could strain the 59-year-old pipes to the breaking point.

The federation worries that Enbridge, the company responsible for the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history that fouled the Kalamazoo River two years ago, has not properly maintained the pipelines and is not prepared to respond quickly in case of a leak.

“We should take whatever precautions necessary to protect the Great Lakes from an oil spill that would rival the BP spill,” Andy Buchsbaum, the federation’s Great Lakes Regional executive director said during a news conference Thursday to announce the release of the report. The lakes provide drinking water for 30 million people in the U.S. and Canada, support a $7 billion fishery, a $16 billion recreational boating economy and are the backbone of one of the world’s largest regional economies, according to the report.

As the article notes, Enbridge is the company that was already responsible for one massive pipeline disaster — the 2010 Kalamazoo River accident that dumped 1 million gallons of crude oil into a major waterway and which caused federal regulators to blast the company for “complete breakdown of safety” as cleanup costs are expected to go well beyond $800 million. Indeed, it’s quite possible that America’s next Deepwater Horizon disaster will take place somewhere on the mainland.

Every day I try to stay on top of the latest environmental news, and in recent days it’s astonishing how many articles I read about pipeline spills or leaks or detection of major problems with pipelines somewhere in North America. You can follow some of the links: An oil sheen in Barataria Bay off Louisiana caused by a leak in an Exxon crude-oil pipeline; the discovery of a design failure that caused a pipeline to explode in Minneapolis last year; a fire in a pipeline in Mexico that caused hundreds to be evacuated. Those are just from the last couple of days.

Then there’s this: Problems with a section of the already existing Keystone pipeline that’s currently operational in  the upper Midwest:

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — TransCanada Corp. has temporarily shut down its existing 2,100-mile Keystone pipeline after tests showed possible safety issues, a federal agency said Thursday.

Jeannie Layson, spokeswoman for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, which oversees pipelines in the U.S., said no leaks were detected on the line, which moves on average about 500,000 barrels of crude a day from Alberta, Canada, down through several states to facilities Illinois and Oklahoma.

“TransCanada reported to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration that they have shut down their existing Keystone system pipeline to make repairs in areas where required integrity tests identified possible safety issues,” Layson said in an email.

She said the possible problems were located on the stretch of pipeline that extends between Missouri and Illinois.

Plain and simple, the operators of the Keystone XL pipeline cannot guarantee its safety. That’s not the only reason for opposing the project — the extraction process in Canada is a big net loser for greenhouse gases — but it’s probably the most important one. The proposed XL extension crosses the Sandhills in Nebraska, the large wetland ecosystem, and the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the largest reserves of fresh water in the world, serving about 2 million people. A major accident puts all that at risk. A Mitt Romney administration would surely approve Keystone XL, but the same outcome is also quite likely if President Obama is re-elected — unless the public pressure continues . That’s why it’s so critical that everyday citizens continue fighting this reckless project.

To learn more about pipleline safety threats to the Great Lakes, check out: http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-10-18/great-lakes-at-risk-of-major-oil-spill-report-warns

To read more about safety problems with the existing Keystone pipeline, please read: http://fuelfix.com/blog/2012/10/18/transcanada-temporarily-shuts-keystone-pipeline/

© Smith Stag, LLC 2012 – All Rights Reserved

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