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March 08, 2011

Houston Mayor Calls for More Pipeline Scrutiny

IMG_2995 Last week, Houston Mayor Annise D. Parker sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calling for more study of the environmental impacts of the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline on Houston. From the letter: (Read the full letter - PDF)

"There are a number of issues that were not sufficiently addressed in the current Draft (Environmental Impact Statement). Both the EPA and the City of Houston are concerned with the potential for increased emissions of air pollutants at Texas refineries, the effects on the low income communities surrounding the proposed pipeline site, and the safety and spill response preparation."

Parker goes on to ask that the State Department provide a supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on this proposed pipeline. Right now the department is considering allowing TransCanada to build the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline through six states, from Montana to Texas.

The poison Keystone XL pipeline threatens America's heartland, moving toxic oil through America's breadbasket. A toxic tar sands oil spill in this region would devastate aquifers that supply water to 30 percent of America's irrigated farmland.

And Mayor Parker is not alone in her concerns about its impacts on Houston. Resident Juan Parras has long lived in the neighborhood -- the targeted destination of the Keystone XL pipeline, where more than 90 percent of the heavy, sulfurous tar sands crude will be refined.


Juan-Parras-290 Parras' community, a primarily Latino, low-income area along the Houston Ship Channel's industrial corridor, is home to several of the nation's most polluted schools.

Many of the refineries process tar sands oil from Canada, and an additional 900,000 barrels of tar sands every day will further poison this community if the Keystone XL pipeline is built.

Parras' community is one of the worst public health zones in the nation. A study done by the University of Texas and the city of Houston in cooperation with the EPA targeted twelve hazardous air pollutants generated by petrochemical refining; all twelve chemicals registered present in Parras's community. Eight are known carcinogens, and registered at elevated levels.

With Houston refineries planning to process an additional 900,000 barrels of the world's dirtiest oil every day from the Keystone XL pipeline, rates of pollution and disease in the area can only be expected to increase.

You can read more about Parras' story and the many others of those fighting this dirty pipeline across the U.S. in our Faces of Tar Sands report.

Tar sands oil is the most toxic fossil fuel on the planet that leaves in its wake scarred landscapes and a web of pipelines and polluting refineries all while delaying our transition to a clean energy economy. It is an oil disaster that we can still stop.

-- Kate Colarulli, Director of the Sierra Club Dirty Fuels Campaign

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