The Final Environmental Impact Study (FEIS) on the Keystone XL pipeline has been released. It claims the construction of the KXL will not significantly increase the carbon emissions. The State Department, who conducted the study, stops short of recommending approval of the project and does acknowledge many of the environmental risks associated with the building of the pipeline.
Nebraska Representatives Adrian Smith and Lee Terry seem all too eager to sidestep the final process in TransCanada’s quest to receive a presidential permit from President Obama. This completed study is just environmental. The final stage will be to determine if this Diluted Bitumen pipeline is in the national interest of the United States.
Smith’s press release stated, “The State department has once again confirmed the Keystone pipeline would be safe and in the best interest of our nation… it’s time to move forward with this project which would improve our energy security, create jobs and spur economic growth.”
Terry’s comment, “There is no question that moving forward with Keystone XL is in our ‘national interest.’ …It would be a disgrace to allow extreme ideologues to obstruct this critical project that will create jobs and help us down the path of energy security.”
Smith and Terry must not understand that a 90-day period for other federal agencies to weigh in is required for the permitting process. Agencies like the Department of Interior, Bureau of Land Management, Environmental Protection Agency, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Farm Service and Rural Utilities Service Agencies. Others like Army Corps of Engineers, Department of Energy, Department of Transportation, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, and Office of Pipeline Safety must all weigh in. Smith and Terry must not be concerned about their input.
On the other hand, USA Today reports Congressman Raul Grijalva D-Ariz. responding to the study, “The State Department is asking us to believe this pipeline is in the national interest. How can a pipeline that ships Canadian tar sands to the Gulf of Mexico for export, that does nothing to increase our energy independence, and that will deal irreparable damage both to our landscapes and our air quality possibly meet that definition?”
The federal study also goes into great detail about other concerns that people in Nebraska have become so knowledgeable about. The study states that after pipeline completion, the pipeline will create only 35 full-time jobs and 15 temporary contractor positions in the entire United States.
The study indicates that if the pipeline is constructed that the price per barrel of bitumen could increase “by up to $8 per barrel.” This increased cost will most likely be felt at the pump in the form of higher fuel prices.
Dozens of pages of the report indicate the chances of a spill and cite recent oil pipelines as their reference source. In fact, the State Department reports crude oil pipelines have had 321 incidents in the ten years 2002 to 2012. The average incident for all oil pipelines was 16,000 gallons each. But for “large pipelines”, and that means 16 inch diameter and larger, (the KXL will be a 36 inch diameter) the news is even worse. In that same time span there were 71 incidents with the average being over 46,000 gallons.
Now, keep all that in mind as the State Department Report also calculates the “Potential Releases Associated with the Proposed Project.” They report potential oil spills of 22,000 gallons every year transporting oil by pipe, rail, marine, and truck. Keep that in mind as the proposed pipeline (according to the study) crosses 294 miles of the High Plains Ogallala Aquifer, 62 major water crossings, and will be laid in the ground “within 1 mile of 2,537 wells, including 39 public water supply wells. Wells that are in the vicinity could be affected by a release from the proposed project.”
And keep this is mind when the federal study clearly acknowledges what I have been writing about for years. This is not conventional crude; this pipe will carry DilBit, and diluted Bitumen (DilBit) sinks. The study states, “… in the event of a spill into water, it is possible that large portions of DilBit will sink and that submerged oil significantly changes spill response and impacts.” The study also must include, “a means to address the additional risks of releases that may be greater for spills of DilBit than other crudes.” The State Department says the study should, “more clearly recognize that this characteristic of dilbit is different from the fate and transport of oil contaminants associated with conventional crude oil and refined product spills from pipelines.”
So there you have it. DilBit is significantly different that conventional crude. Risks associated with spills may be greater than other oils. Large portions may sink in water. It crosses hundreds of miles of the aquifer and is near thousands of private wells. And, Keystone XL won’t lower the price of fuel, as it only transports DilBit to the Gulf coast so it can be sold for greater prices on the world market.
People in Nebraska, along with ranching and farming landowners, are being asked to accept all this risk for decades to come, for a little bit of construction activity and a few tax dollars that will depreciate over a fifteen-year time span according to Nebraska law.
And now, we have come to the point we have to decide if this pipe is in the national interest of the United States. To repeat Congressman Raul Grijalva’s question, “How can a pipeline that ships Canadian tar sands to the Gulf of Mexico for export, that does nothing to increase our energy independence, and that will deal irreparable damage both to our landscapes and our air quality possibly meet that definition?”