Keystone XL Concerns Raised

06-09-2011 // Paul Hammel/Omaha World-Herald

The following is an excerpt from the Omaha World Herald.

Opponents of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, including a Nebraska rancher, expressed alarm Tuesday after the Environmental Protection Agency raised new concerns about the controversial project.

Cattle ranching

Among the EPA concerns are that the public and local firefighters won’t know the exact chemical diluting agents used in the pipeline because the chemicals are “proprietary information” and that leak-detection steps might allow small spills to go undetected for “some time.”

Opponents say those chemicals could include several that can cause cancer, such as benzene, which was used as a thinning agent in a tar-sand pipeline that ruptured in Michigan earlier this year, releasing more than 840,000 gallons of crude oil.

Susan Luebbe, a Stuart, Neb., rancher whose land will be crossed by the pipeline, said representatives of TransCanada Inc. have refused to tell her what chemicals will be used in the pipeline. That leaves her and local firefighters unsure of what they’ll confront in the case of a leak or fire.

The exchange came a day after the State Department closed a public comment period on the supplemental EIS for the pipeline project.

The State Department launched the second assessment after EPA last summer called its initial EIS “inadequate” because significant environmental impacts had not been sufficiently evaluated.

The EPA letter, issued Tuesday, called the new assessment “insufficient.”

The EPA said the specific chemicals should be revealed and assessed. The agency also said the State Department had not adequately considered alternate routes for the pipeline and whether rural communities have emergency resources to deal with pipeline spills and accidents.

Giles cited major pipeline spills last year in Michigan and Illinois and two leaks last month in the Keystone pipeline, a 1,300-mile line through eastern Nebraska that is owned by the same company that wants to build Keystone XL.

The EPA, in its letter, said the chances that a crude oil spill would reach groundwater in the Sand Hills were “relatively high” because of the shallow aquifers and sandy soil.

Luebbe said arsenic and benzene were among the dangerous chemicals used to thin tar sand oils shipped through the pipeline that recently leaked near Enbridge, Mich.

Officials with the National Wildlife Federation and other groups say the tar-sand oil is more corrosive and more likely to leak and that U.S. regulations don’t consider that.

“This is another Deepwater Horizon disaster in the making,” said Jeremy Symons of the National Wildlife Federation, referring to the oil rig that blew up in the Gulf of Mexico last year.

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