Home > Uncategorized > Hold Your Horses Keystone! Keystone XL pipeline: charging into the sunset, or over a cliff?

Hold Your Horses Keystone! Keystone XL pipeline: charging into the sunset, or over a cliff?

The keystone pipeline decision needs to be postponed to give adequate time for TransCanada to complete a thorough investigation of the pipeline’s track as well as answer the numerous questions of general public.  Trans Canada is trying to accomplish a monolithic task in completing an investigation of all 274,134 plus acres of proposed pipeline in only 6 years. There is a way that this pipeline might work, but not if it is cobbled together to appease the deadlines of the market over the necessary precautions the U.S. public is asking for their sake.   

During the last weeks of March, two oil spills made national television.  The public reaction to the spills, specifically the immediate connection to the Keystone project, highlights that the general public is not ready to accept such a massive project in one bite.  Even international newspapers like The Guardian focused their coverage not on the Arkansas spill but on the U.S. intellectual connection to the proposed pipeline.  Scientific papers are now publishing editorials and news articles questioning if tar sand pipelines more dangerous than the typical pipelines.  Even the National Geographic has headlining the public backlash to Keystone caused by a completely different company’s event.

Every article I was able to find about these spills noted that if something similar were to go wrong with the keystone pipeline, the results would be orders of magnitude worse.  That has raised a lot of questions with those vocal enough to share their opinion.  The general public is curious, concerned, and unknowledgeable. Inquiring minds are searching for answers from TransCanada.

The problem compounds when you consider that TransCanada does not yet have the answers to a lot of those questions.  In their EIS report, they outline their procedure for minimal impact of wetlands, but they don’t know how many acres they will actually encounter.  Again, they have very detailed emergency procedures for spills near communities, and on just about every different type of land possible, but lack the exact number of communities that would be impacted for any given mile of pipe.

Their plan relies on highly organized responses for a list of “what if” scenarios. However, with such a diverse biological and geological differences present across the proposed path, will their plans work for every case?  They are depending on the site manager’s ability to deal with problems. Who knows if that manager had ever dealt with the unique tar sands, or the unique ecological environment?  Generally those two knowledge bases require years to form.  Not six years spent in an office.

For the sake of the project and to avoid the incidents that the American people are afraid of, TransCanada needs to take a step back and think about how to better manage such a large project.  It might be more expensive in the short term, but that ounce of preparation could mean lives down the line.

Op-Ed written by Kirstin Hein, Environmental Geosciences student at Texas A&M University

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