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July 08, 2011

TransCanada's Tar Sands Would Make Exxon Look Like a Walk in the Park

ND spill3Last Saturday's 42,000-gallon oil spill into Montana's Yellowstone River is a tragic example of the dangers of our continued dependence on oil. Our thoughts are with those Montana residents whose health and livelihoods have been threatened by this devastating accident.

This is a stark reminder of the very real risks posed by oil pipelines, something that should be weighed by decision-makers now considering the proposed Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline -- a pipeline that's massively bigger than the Exxon pipe that spilled on Saturday -- which is also planned to run under the Yellowstone River.

The proposed Keystone XL pipe that would connect refineries in Texas with the toxic tar sands of Alberta would cut through six states, including Montana, and pump 900,000 barrels a day. The GOP House is trying the streamline approval for the project while the State Department is mulling it over. The Environmental Protection Agency -- along with scientists, ranchers, farmers, you name it -- has been loud and clear that this terrible idea has lacked basic review. It will not reduce gas prices or generate jobs.

And one XL pipeline rupture like the one we saw in Montana last week would make the Exxon incident a walk in the park. It would irreparably harm the environment, compromise the Ogallala Aquifer, and affect perhaps millions of Americans in the Midwest. That's because the Keystone XL pipe, if approved, would be pumping more than 20 times the amount the Exxon pipeline was delivering before it ruptured.

The mere thought of such a scenario with the Keystone XL pipeline is terrifying. Considering that nearly an hour went by before Exxon contained the spill, the Pembina Institute and NRDC estimate that the Keystone XL pipeline under the same circumstances would've spilled 1.45 million gallons.

TransCanada is not known for building safer and more dependable pipelines. TransCanada's Keystone 1 pipeline that's currently up and running has spilled at least 12 times the past year, including a 16,000-gallon incident in North Dakota and a 50-barrel dumping in Kansas early last month.

For decades, oil companies have used tenuous reassurances and politicians have reliably complied. Accidents are followed by lackadaisical clean-ups and more reassurances. Time goes by. More oil streams through pipes. And then another accident hits. This latest Exxon affair is a sad tune coming from a broken record. TransCanada's proposal is the same old song.

Send a message. Tell Washington, D.C. that toxic tar sands from Canada is not an answer to our energy needs.

Photo: Recent oil spill in North Dakota from TransCanada's other U.S. pipeline, Keystone 1.

-- Brian Foley

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