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Environmental Concerns Surround Proposed Oil Pipeline

A new oil pipeline running from Canada’s tar sands is being proposed and would run through several states, including Oklahoma. Landowners have already been fighting the proposed Keystone XL pipeline but now environmental concerns are adding more fuel to the fire.

In a recent report by the Natural Resources Defense Council, National Wildlife Federation, Pipeline Safety Trust, and the Sierra Club, many environmental and public safety concerns are brought to light.

One of these concerns is caused by the fact that pipes from the tar sands are increasingly carrying diluted bitumen, also known as “DilBit”. DilBit is a highly corrosive and acidic material. This material is a mix of raw bitumen and volatile natural gas liquid condensate. Bitumen often contains toxins such as chromium, mercury, arsenic, and lead, adding to the risk if there is a spill.

Currently, conventional technology is being used in the pipelines to transport the DilBit from the tar sands. The use of this technology may pose a significant risk of pipeline leaks or ruptures due to corrosion. The report states, “…the Alberta pipeline system has had approximately sixteen times as many spills due to internal corrosion as the U.S. system. Yet, the safety and spill response standards used by the United States to regulate pipeline transport of bitumen are designed for conventional oil.”

These concerns are already being felt along the Keystone pipeline already in use. On May 29th, the Keystone tar sands pipeline, that was constructed less than a year ago, sprung its twelfth leak. As much as 2,100 gallons of crude oil spilled in Kansas. This was just three weeks after the same pipeline spilled 21,000 gallons in North Dakota.  Here are reports from the other ten leaks.

  1. May 21, 2010
  2. June 23, 2010
  3. August 10, 2010
  4. August 19, 2010
  5. January 5, 2011
  6. January 31, 2011
  7. February 3, 2011
  8. February 23, 2011
  9. March 8, 2011
  10. March 16, 2011

After the latest spills a Corrective Action Order (CAO) was issued to TransCanada by federal regulators. This came after they determined that the Keystone pipeline was an imminent threat to life, property and the environment. The CAO states “After evaluating the foregoing preliminary findings of fact, I find that the continued operation of the pipeline without corrective measures would be hazardous to life, property and the environment.”  This is the first time this type of action was taken on a new pipeline. On average, the pipelines that received a CAO were more than forty-five years old.

However, there are proponents of the pipeline. Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA) delivered more than 62,000 public comments in favor of the project. The comments come from people living in the six states along the pipeline’s proposed route. Michael Whatley, CEA’s executive vice president said  “American consumers neither want nor deserve any additional delays, and now is the time to approve this project that is so vital to North American energy security.”

The question now is, are the risks worth the benefits? Do Oklahoman’s want to risk having a major spill on our soil or should we look for better options? Give us your opinion in the comments below.

Photo Credit: Natural Resources Defense Council

About the Author

Lisa Sharp is passionate about green living, organic food, animals, and natural medicine. She is an environmental activist, green living expert, and consultant. In addition to being the founder and editor of Green Oklahoma, Lisa has a green living blog, Retro Housewife Goes Green. You can follow Lisa on twitter @Retrohousewife5 and Facebook.



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Lisa Sharp is the founder of Green Oklahoma. She is passionate about the environment and improving Oklahoma for future generations. She also writes on her personal blog Retro Housewife Goes Green.

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