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June 29, 2011

Environmentalists Warn Against Keystone XL Haste

Some politicians are pushing a bill that will do nothing to lower gas prices except saddle our country with a dangerous new pipeline. The bill, H.R. 1938, will hit the house floor within the next two weeks and urges an expedited approval of the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline—one that will leave minimal time for proper scientific evaluation.

Concerned leaders from four prominent environmental organizations convened at the Mott House on Capitol Hill on Tuesday to convey how this hasty pipeline ‘solution’ will only import new problems into our heartland.

Keystone-map Spanning 2,000 miles from Alberta to Texas, the Keystone XL Pipeline will cross six states and funnel three million barrels of bitumen, a crude form of oil, to the Gulf Coast each day. In Canada, the project will destroy an area of pristine forests the size of Florida through its destructive strip mining and steam removal practices.

 Tuesday’s panelists argued that this proposed tar sands pipeline will create significant health, economic and ecological risks while yielding a very small return in benefits. These tar sand pipelines are not safe for public health or the environment, and according to Lena Moffit of the Sierra Club, will produce carbon emissions equivalent to 4 new coal power plants. The pipeline will increase American gas prices cumulatively by $4 billion, and despite TransCanada’s claims, will only yield empty promises regarding job creation and energy security.  Read more about The Keystone XL Pipeline’s consequences here.

But apart from these facts, the panelists asked—what’s the rush? Currently, the Keystone pipeline capacity already exceeds consumption rates. Yet, the pipeline extension would add one million barrels per day to the load, an amount of crude material that Canada won’t even be able to produce until 2020. Speaker Ryan Salmon of the National Wildlife Federation deemed this project unnecessary, especially for the costs involved.

Panelists urged clean, renewable energy infrastructure as a better alternative. Increasing auto fuel efficiency by just 2.5 mpg alone will save more oil than the Keystone XL Pipeline can provide, so just imagine the possibilities with a 60 mpg standard.  KXL at Mott House

Yet, TransCanada has begun an aggressive campaign to bully landowners into surrendering their land for the project. Targeting lower income populations, the corporation has filed lawsuits against ranchers and farmers who refuse to surrender their land to the dirty fuel, according to Alex Moore, from Friends of the Earth. With these tactics, the industry sure isn’t making friends.                

Local communities are especially invested in fighting the project, as the pipeline runs through the Ogallala aquifer. As the oasis of the Midwest, the Ogallala provides water for 2 million people and the entire breadbasket of the country. If polluted, the consequences could be devastating.  

Time and time again we have been assured that quick and dirty energy solutions are safe. Time and time again, these statements have yielded disasters, such as the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill and Michigan’s 2010 Kalamazoo River tar sands leak.

Let’s heed the warnings and not dig ourselves into another tragedy. 

-- Laura Wandres, Sierra Club Media Intern. Pipeline photo by Janet Loehrke, The Panelists: (from left to right) Lena Moffit (Sierra Club), Alex Moore (Friends of the Earth), Susan Casey-Lefkowitz (Natural Resources Defense Council), Ryan Salmon (National Wildlife Federation)- Photo by Rosie Mansfield

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