Wake-Up Name From Yellowstone: Keystone XL Should be Shelved
Like People all over the place, I’ve been sickened and outraged to see 42,000 gallons of toxic crude oil coursing via the Yellowstone River, certainly one of our last wild waterways, very important to fish, farmers and waterfowl.
Oil is caked along the river’s fertile shores, choking plants and threatening wildlife, stories an NRDC staffer who visited the site last week.
Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer has pledged to hold ExxonMobil liable for polluting the Yellowstone River, vowing to Politico final week “to stay on this like smell on a skunk until it’s cleaned up.”
Schweitzer’s received it proper, and he is aware of it won’t be straightforward. With a grasp’s degree in soil science, the governor understands the toll this oily sheen is taking on treasured wetlands and the regional food chain.
“We Montanans,” he said, “take our wildlife and our rivers very severe.”
For all of us who care about American rivers and the life they maintain, the catastrophe befalling considered one of our most beloved and storied waterways is a well timed warning towards an even larger threat.
Massive Oil desires to construct a pipeline to send the dirtiest crude oil on the planet from the Boreal forests of Canada proper by the oil refinery 2015 center of America, crossing the Yellowstone, the Missouri, the Platte and different treasured rivers on its strategy to Texas refineries.
This proposal — the Keystone XL pipeline — would dig us deeper into the oil dependency gap that undermines our economic system, our nationwide security and our future. It will expose waterways, croplands and wildlife across the American heartland to the kind of pipeline disaster unfolding along Petroleum Heat Exchanger Series the Yellowstone. And it would feed some of the destructive and regressive industrial practices on Earth.
It’s a terrible plan that must be stopped.
The Canadian crude oil we buy in this country is coming increasingly from tar sands, which comprise a viscous fossil fuel referred to as bitumen. There’s a lot of it lying beneath Canada’s great Boreal forest, one in all the biggest contiguous woodlands anyplace on the earth.
The first step in getting on the tar sands is to clear-reduce the forest and dice it into a harrowing wasteland of access roads, containment ponds and equipment pads.
Where as soon as primal forests stood and majestic woodlands animals thrived in the Canadian province of Alberta, tar sands companies have peeled again the forest and underlying peat to gouge out an open strip mine the scale of greater Orlando, Fla.
It’s a disgraceful crime in opposition to our setting. But the damage does not finish there.
Once the tar sands are dug out, processors use large amounts of sizzling water to separate the sand from the bitumen. The waste goes into huge tailings ponds, the place, in one of the best case, there it sits.
To get bitumen from deeper underground, tar sands corporations should drill into the clay and coal where it lodges. To coax it from the earth requires pumping large quantities of scorching water in the ground, or “cooking” the land with steam, sometimes for months.
The heat comes from natural gasoline. We’re burning certainly one of our cleanest fuels, in other phrases, to get at a few of the dirtiest, pumping out unmitigated tons of planet-warming carbon emissions in the process.
Next now we have to turn these things into gas, a bit like spinning straw into gold. It takes refining so intensive its akin to alchemy, requiring intensive power use.
To get tar sands crude to the refineries, we run it through pipelines.
At room temperature, though, bitumen is almost strong, a type of cross between tar and gentle coal. To run by way of pipelines, it should be diluted with natural gasoline liquids, which are highly volatile, then pumped underneath pressure at temperatures as excessive as one hundred fifty degrees F.
We’re getting more and more oil refinery 2015 raw tar sands bitumen, which is extra corrosive and extra abrasive than regular crude oil. That means it is more durable on pipelines. The present Keystone pipeline, one in every of the primary to be devoted to moving tar sands crude from Canada to the United States, has failed 12 occasions in its first 12 months of operation, leaking 21,000 gallons of crude within the worst such incident.
A yr in the past this month, another tar sands pipeline spilled 840,000 gallons of bitumen and pure gas liquids into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River. Cleanup costs have already topped $500 million, but the river — 30 miles of which stay closed — may never be the same.
Now comes the tar sands giant TransCanada, proposing to construct the Keystone XL, a undertaking that requires 1,711 miles of latest pipeline. About 1,400 miles of it might reduce via the United States, crossing the border near Morgan, Mt. before passing by way of South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma en route to the Gulf Coast of Texas.
Almost 250 miles of the pipeline would go by way of the Ogallala Aquifer, the supply of drinking water for hundreds of thousands of heartland Americans and nearly a 3rd of our nation’s irrigation wants. That’s hardly the place for transporting up to 35 million gallons a day of scorching, corrosive bitumen.
As a member of President Obama’s National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, I learned from our Gulf Coast households what that catastrophe did to the ocean. We actually do not want to see anything like that occur in the important waters of our nation’s greatest aquifer.
And but, the perfect analysis tells us a Keystone XL pipeline failure beneath the Nebraska Sandhills might gush up to 7.9 million gallons of tar sands crude into the aquifer, based on an assessment released this week the College of Nebraska’s John Stansbury, Ph.D.
A surface water spill into, say, the Missouri River, might ship a plume of toxic crude wending its approach 450 miles downstream, in line with Stansbury, the college’s associate chair of environmental and water resources engineering.
Spills of some type would make sure. In fact, we may count on 91 major spills over the 50-12 months projected life of the Keystone XL pipeline, Stansbury reviews.
Beyond that, there are important questions about transporting tar sands crude by pipelines that we merely have not answered.
How are pipelines affected, for instance, by the excessive temperatures, pressures, corrosion and abrasion related to moving tar sands crude What increased risks does that pose to public security and the surroundings How do you clear it up once it spills What must we do to guard ourselves from these risks
We do not know, because the Department of Transportation company that oversees pipeline security — the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration — has never studied the issue.
The protections designed to maintain our nation’s 2.5 million miles of pipeline protected, actually, had been put into place when tar sands weren’t a lot of a difficulty. Neither our safeguards nor our pipelines are designed to a tar sands standard.
Relatively than continuing to put our waters, croplands and wildlife at risk, the Pipeline and Hazardous Supplies Security Administration should conduct a detailed study of diluted bitumen and the way its unique traits wear away at pipelines and elevate the odds of catastrophic spills. And the agency ought to be directed to develop new safeguards to guard major freshwater sources just like the Yellowstone River from pipeline spills.
As for the Keystone XL pipeline, it has no place in our power future. It’s, instead, a conduit to the previous, a relic of a fossil fuel dependency we badly need to move past. Building it could pay tribute to the worst impulses of our addiction to oil, our willingness to place our very future in danger for the sake of the planet’s dirtiest fuel.
As a result of Keystone XL would cross the U.S. border, it requires a determination of nationwide curiosity by our State Department, which is predicted to rule on that question by 12 months’s end. Sometime in August, the State Department is anticipated to challenge an Environmental Impression Assertion.
The Keystone XL will not be in our national interest. As a substitute of perpetuating our fossil fuel dependence by driving a 1,four hundred-mile spike via the American heartland, we should invest in the kinds of efficiency enhancements, renewable energy sources and sustainable communities we know can reduce our oil use by tens of millions of barrels per day.
That is the solution to strengthen our financial system, shore up our national safety and create a brighter future for us all.
Inform Secretary of State Hillary Clinton the Keystone XL pipeline isn’t in our national curiosity and must be stopped.
This put up originally appeared on NRDC’s Switchboard blog.
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