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For Immediate Release, October 25, 2011

Contact:  Amy Atwood, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 504-5660
Kelly Trout, Friends of the Earth, (202) 222-0722,
Bruce McIntosh, Western Nebraska Resources Council, (402) 416-3239 

Keystone XL Pipeline Lawsuit Expanded to Challenge Bogus Claim That Spills From Pipeline Are Unlikely 

Spill Would Be Disaster for Whooping Cranes, Other Endangered Wildlife, and Fresh Water for Millions of People

OMAHA, Neb.— The Center for Biological Diversity, Western Nebraska Resources Council, and Friends of the Earth expanded their suit against the Keystone XL pipeline today to challenge claims that spills from the pipeline are unlikely and that the project is therefore “not likely to adversely affect” whooping cranes and other endangered species that depend on the rivers and other habitats crossed by the pipeline.

“With recent pipeline spills in the Kalamazoo and Yellowstone rivers, not to mention the disastrous spill in the Gulf of Mexico, it’s outrageous that TransCanada is still trying to pull the wool over the American public’s eyes by somehow claiming Keystone XL is safe,” said Amy Atwood, a senior attorney with the Center. “Spills are just one of the many problems that make this pipeline an environmental disaster. Tar sands oil is expensive, consumes tremendous amounts of water and energy to mine and refine, and pollutes our air, land and water.”

For their analysis of endangered species, TransCanada concluded that spills are “unlikely” to occur. This is directly contradicted by the State Department’s final environmental impact statement for the pipeline, which estimated that the pipeline will cause about two spills every year of its estimated 50-year lifespan. And an analysis by a professor at the University of Nebraska, Dr. John Stansbury, concluded that the 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline is likely to have more than eight times as many spills, take more than 10 times as long to shut down in the event of a rupture and spill more than six times as much as raw tar sands oil as TransCanada estimates. The pipeline would cross hundreds of rivers and streams, including the Missouri, Yellowstone, Niobrara and Platte rivers. A spill in any of those rivers would be disastrous for wildlife and people.

If permitted to stand, the State Department and Fish and Wildlife Service’s determinations, made in environmental reviews under the Endangered Species Act, will allow TransCanada to avoid a formal analysis that would include additional safeguards for endangered species and the rivers they depend on for their survival.  

“The Keystone XL pipeline should not be approved,” said Bruce McIntosh, an ecologist with the Western Nebraska Resources Council. “I’ve spent my life appreciating and studying Nebraska’s Sand Hills. A pipeline across a landscape of moving sand and water is a recipe for disaster.”

On Oct. 5 the groups filed suit challenging premature work by TransCanada on the proposed pipeline route, including mowing of native prairie vegetation and trapping and relocation of thousands of endangered American burying beetles prior to final approval of the pipeline by the State Department. Separately, Friends of the Earth unearthed State Department documents through the Freedom of Information Act confirming a review process irrevocably tainted by Department employees’ pro-pipeline bias and complicit relationships with industry executives.

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline would carry up to 830,000 barrels of oil strip-mined from Canada’s “tar sands” into the United States each day. In addition to the many rivers crossed by the proposed route, the pipeline would cross Nebraska’s legendary Sandhills and pass directly across the Ogallala Aquifer, which is a source of drinking water for millions of Americans and a major source of water for agriculture. TransCanada’s existing Keystone I tar sands pipeline has reportedly leaked 14 times since it went into operation in June 2010, including one spill of 24,000 gallons.

“It’s outrageous that the government is moving forward based on the bogus determination that spills from the Keystone XL pipeline are unlikely. The Keystone I, barely a year into existence, has already spilled 14 times in the U.S. alone,” said Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth. “We are taking legal action to remedy this injustice.”

View the legal complaint.


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