Proposed Pipeline Brings Gulf Dangers to Heartland States

New report details why Canadian tar sands are a bad bet for the United States

06-09-2010 // Tony Iallonardo

A report from National Wildlife Federation today warns of a massive 2,000-mile-long, five-state proposed pipeline would use safety shortcuts, substandard materials and unsafe practices that would create a high risk of ruptures that would endanger rare species, water supplies, and rancher livelihoods.

The U.S. State Department is expected to approve the project, known as the Keystone XL pipeline, over the objections of residents and environmental groups.

The pipeline would bring tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

"As the BP oil spill disaster shows, Big Oil cannot be trusted to ensure its practices are safe," said Larry Schweiger, president and CEO of NWF. "We cannot afford to bring the recklessness of the Gulf to the American heartland."

The report, Staying Hooked on a Dirty Fuel: Why Canadian Tar Sands are a Bad Bet for the United States, looks at the dangers of tar sands development both to the Canadian and American environment, and global threat they pose because they emit higher greenhouse gas emissions than conventional oil or gas.

Conservation and indigenous groups are urging the U.S. State Department to cancel the proposed pipeline. The State Department is expected to make a finding of "national interest" on the pipeline next month. The finding is a precursor to granting a permit on the pipeline.

"The combination of thin, cheap materials, pressures exceeding normal limits and lack of emergency planning shows a disregard for the safety and security of local ecosystems, economies, property and communities" said Marty Cobenais, pipeline coordinator of the Indigenous Environmental Network.

The report points to a history of pipeline leaks, including:

  • A 270,000 gallon Alaska rupture in 2006
  • A crack in Wisconsin that oozed 50,000 gallons in 2007
  • 210,000 gallons that spewed from a pipeline in Minnesota in 2009

"The environmental costs of tar sands development are too large. Tar sands are a dirty source of energy that should be abandoned in favor of cleaner energy sources," said Kevin Timoney Ph.D., of Treeline Ecological Research in Canada.

According to the report, tar sands mining requires more energy and produces more pollution than traditional oil and gas drilling.

Dr. Timoney estimates tar sands development has led to a reduction in the regional bird population of 58,000 to 400,000 birds due to habitat loss. This loss is in addition to the annual mortality due to tailings pond exposure, which has been estimated at 450 to 5000 birds. The death of 1,600 ducks in one mortality event at a Syncrude tailings pond has been documented.


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