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Center for Biological Diversity:
The Keystone XL Pipeline
The Oregonian, February 01, 2012

President Obama was right to reject the Keystone pipeline
By Amy Atwood and Jeanne Roy

The Oregonian's perplexing editorial on the Keystone XL pipeline puts a decidedly rosy spin on a dangerous project that jeopardizes the environment and our climate and will yield few of the benefits that boosters brag about ("Keystone Kop: President Obama bungles the decision on TransCanada's proposed oil pipeline," Jan. 22).

President Obama was right to turn down the Keystone XL, a 1,700-mile pipeline that would deliver dirty tar-sands oil from Canada through the heart of America to Texas, where much of it would be exported to other countries.

The biggest winners if it's built would be foreign oil companies, which already take enough of our money. In exchange, Keystone XL would leave us decidedly poorer on several fronts:

Climate. Greenhouse gas emissions from tar-sands development are two to three times higher than those from conventional oil operations. That's hardly the recipe for stemming global warming. If we're going to avoid catastrophic climate change, respected scientists tell us we must reduce the atmospheric level of carbon dioxide to 350 parts per million. Today, the level is 390 ppm, and Keystone XL would certainly contribute to making things worse. As citizens, we should resist every significant source of greenhouse gas emissions if we are going to stop global warming.

Spills. The State Department says in its written review of this project that Keystone XL will spill oil, which comes as no surprise. The existing Keystone pipeline has already leaked 14 times since it began operating in June 2010, including one leak that dumped 21,000 gallons of tar-sands crude. Another tar-sands pipeline spilled about 1 million gallons of crude in the Kalamazoo River in 2010. Keystone XL would transport as much as 37 million gallons of oil every day. It's not hard to imagine the devastation that inevitable leaks will bring.

Water and wildlife. Keystone XL would cross more than 1,700 rivers, streams and other water bodies between Alberta, Canada, and the Gulf Coast of Texas and risk contaminating the Ogallala Aquifer (the drinking water source for millions of people in the Midwest). Water is a life force for species and people, and doesn't mix well with spilled oil. The pipeline would also cut through prime wildlife habitat for at least 20 imperiled species, including the whooping crane, pallid sturgeon and woodland caribou. These species are already at risk of extinction.

Environmental devastation. Tar-sands oil is the dirtiest oil on Earth. Four tons of rock and ore are removed for every barrel of oil. The extraction process destroys tens of thousands of acres of forest in Alberta, pollutes hundreds of millions of gallons of water from the Athabasca River, and leaves vast ponds of contaminated wastewater toxic to wildlife. Each barrel of oil from tar sands requires three barrels of water to produce.

Those are pretty compelling reasons for steering clear of this dangerous project. And the economic impact of Keystone XL? The State Department estimates that Keystone XL will result in only 20 permanent, operational jobs in the United States and 2,500 to 4,650 temporary jobs.

Incidentally, after Keystone XL oil makes it to Texas, much of it will be exported to other countries without paying U.S. taxes. It also won't shore up our net oil imports: the Department of Energy says the U.S. will import the same amount of crude from Canada through 2030 regardless of whether Keystone XL is built.

Sure, Canada may still give Keystone XL the green light. That's up to Canada and its citizens. But here in the United States, there's no good reason to back a project that digs us deeper into the hole of environmental destruction and dependence on fossil fuels. This country is ready for a clean energy economy that's safe and sane, and that's where our investment belongs.

Amy Atwood is a senior attorney in the Portland office of the Center for Biological Diversity. Jeanne Roy is co-director of the Center for Earth Leadership in Southwest Portland.


This article originally appeared here.

Photo © Paul S. Hamilton