Tar Sands Pipeline
Beneath the boreal forest of Alberta, Canada lies an area the size of Florida containing toxic 'tar sands' bitumen. Mining includes clear-cutting and strip-mining huge protions of intact boreal forest ecosystems, turning them into enormous open-pit mines as large as three miles wide and 200 feet deep. Only about 10 % of strip-mined material is bitumen (raw tar sands oil). Each barrel of oil from tar sands requires 2.5--4 times as much water to produce as conventional oil, and much of this water ends up in vast toxic lakes, or 'tailings ponds.' In 2005, these 'tailings ponds' comprised about 20 square miiles of non-reclaimable toxic lakes filled with mining waste, creating some of the largest manmade structures on the planet, so vast that they can be seen with the naked eye from space, where once was pristine forest. Toxic chemicals leak into groundwater and river systems, poisoning wildlife and drinking water.
The proposed pipeline would traverse the central United States from Montana through Texas. Leaks from the pipeline are more of a question of 'when,' rather than 'if.' The oil spill in the Gulf Coast pales in comparison to the amount of environmental destruction and volume of oil involved in the mining and transport of tar sands. (Reference: Public Citizen)
The pipeline will travel more than 1,700 miles through farmland and fragile ecosystems, such as Missouri River. Pipeline breaks are not uncommon, as seen in January 2010, when a pipeline in North Dakota spilled 126,000 gallons of oil into the surrounding area.
In Texas, the Keystone XL pipeline will traverse sixteen large rivers. It will crisscross several rivers that are listed as sensitive and protected, including Big Sandy Creek, Angelina River, Neches River, and the Pine Island Bayou.
These rivers and drainages feed 21 lakes and municipal reservoirs, including the Pat Mayse Lake, Lake Tyler, and Lake Cypress Springs, supporting robust fishing and trouism industries. As the BP disaster in the Gulf showed, oil sills can be desvastating to tourism. It's not worth putting these major Texas lakes at risk from a toxic pipeline disaster.
Water contamination isn't the only concern, however. Ninety percent of the increased refining capacity accompanying the proposed Keystone XL pipeline will likely occur in Port Arthur and Houston, an area already plagued with poor air quality. In fact a Rice University study found that levels of cancer-causing chemicals produced in oil refining are already much higher in Houston than in any other city--in some cases, twenty times higher. If the Keystone XL expansion is built, Houston residents can expect to see an increase in the kind of air pollution that leads to these serious health problems. (Reference: Sierra Club)
TransCanada plans to use thin pipe and pump oil at pressures that exceed the normal allowable limits. The company is seeking a special permit to operate at this pressure from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
By connecting tar sands oil to the Gulf Coast, the Keystone XL will make our nation's fuels dirtier and undermine the clean energy solutions we need to avert catastrophic climate change.
The tar sands oil prodcues far more pollution per barrel during refining, increasing the amount of toxins in some of Texas' most polluted cities.
What You Can Do
You can comment on the U.S. Department of State website until July 2, 2010.
Write to your representative and ask them to oppose this pipeline and promote renewables.
Get involved in state permits for both the pipeline and refineries of TCEQ and the Railroad Commission.