Keystone Pipeline: A Key Decision
Hollywood actress Darryl Hannah and NASA scientist James Hansen now share more in common than just their Midwestern roots. Both Hannah and Hansen were arrested at the White House (see video below) along with more than 1,200 individuals in August as part of Tar Sands Action, a coordinated campaign to oppose the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline Project. The proposed 1,700-mile pipeline would extract crude oil from tar sands,
a type of petroleum deposit found in Alberta, Canada, and transport
millions of gallons throughout the United States, reaching as far south
as Texas and Oklahoma.
Since its initial proposal to the U.S. State Department in 2008, the pipeline has been hailed by some as a “game changer” in economic growth and job creation, but criticized by others who cite the potential for dangerous ecological effects as well as environmental health concerns associated with its construction and operation. The pipeline would run directly over the Ogallala Aquifer, a body of ground water that spans from the Dakotas to Texas and serves as a major source of fresh water for the High Plains region of the U.S. (see picture below for the pipeline’s proposed path). After witnessing oil spills in Wisconsin, the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska, New Jersey, and several more in the last decade alone, there are obvious concerns about the safety of large-scale energy extraction and transportation projects and the threats they pose to groundwater safety and security.
The EPA has specifically cited concerns over ground water contamination, emissions levels at Gulf Coast refineries, and total greenhouse gas emissions that could directly result from the project. The agency also expressed concern regarding the environmental safety measures included in the project’s initial proposal, including “whether appropriate mitigation measures to reduce these [greenhouse gas] emissions are being considered.”
Would the pipeline create long-term jobs, or would it pose too high of a risk to human and environmental health? This is a highly contentious issue, but one where you can still make your voice heard. The State Department is accepting public comments during the 90-day review period in which the department determines whether the project is “in the national interest,” considering economic, security, environmental, and other factors. You can submit your comments regarding the construction of the pipeline here.
Check back here for more updates after the public comments period closes on October 9.
To learn more about energy and environment issues, check out the RAC’s website.
Susan Paykin is a 2011-2012 Eisendrath Legislative Assistant.