Keystone XL pipeline pits jobs against the environment
The proposed Keystone XL pipeline would bring Canadian oil to the Gulf of Mexico. Supporters say it would mean 20,000 jobs. Opponents worry about the impact on the vast Ogallala Aquifer, which supplies water to eight states.
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Union representatives and workers who traveled long distances to attend the meetings expressed the same sentiment: that the US should not dismiss an opportunity to create jobs, especially in a troubled economy. TransCanada says the pipeline will create 20,000 jobs and add $20 billion to the US economy.
Detractors raised anxieties about the coarse mixture the pipelines will carry.
Oil sands are crude, they say, more corrosive than crude oil, which not only will make it more susceptible to damaging a pipeline but make it more difficult to mitigate the damage following a spill. TransCanada officials dismiss those claims, saying the Keystone XL will be thicker in construction, making it more durable, and will be monitored by sensors to ensure safety.
In testimony Tuesday in Lincoln, Neb., Mark Whitehead, president of the Nebraska Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association defended his industry, saying that Americans “don’t have the luxury of taking philosophical stances on visions of what things would be like if oil and gasoline weren’t interwoven so tightly in our daily lives.
“The fact is, petroleum has done more to improve our standard of living over the last century than any single innovation,” he said.
Opponents criticized the Obama administration for siding with corporate power and neglecting public health threats they say will be pervasive if the pipeline moves forward.
“If this administration cares about the health of these people, then it must stop this pipeline. We cannot afford to spill this toxic tar sands oil into our soil or groundwater,” said Amanda McKinney Tuesday in Nebraska.
Terry Blevins of Wolf Point, Montana, testified that “the pipeline is for the purpose of generating profit for a private company … it will generate few, if any, local jobs and the oil is likely to be destined for export markets. This is not in the national interest.”
In its environmental impact statement, the US State Department said the existing pipeline experienced 14 spills since June 2010. Seven were 10 gallons or less, two were between 300 and 500 gallons while one was 21,000 gallons. The State Department is involved in the process because the pipeline originates in a foreign country.
President Obama must approve the project by December. A final public hearing is scheduled Friday at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington. If approved, operations will start in 2013.