Home > Uncategorized > Keystone XL Pipeline: Knowing the Risk, Ignoring the injustice

Keystone XL Pipeline: Knowing the Risk, Ignoring the injustice

In 2008, the Keystone XL pipeline project was proposed so that Canada could transport large quantities of oil from Alberta, across the United States, to the Gulf of Mexico. For years, this proposal has been rejected, revised and renewed. On March 1, 2013, the U.S. Department of State released its draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement claiming that “the proposed project is unlikely to have substantial environmental impact…” Even though that statement hoped to pacify those who oppose the pipeline project, comfy words cannot ignore the facts and denial environmental injustice. To this point, the White House has denied procedural justice to the rest of the population and the authorization of the project could result in distributive injustice towards many Americans.

This may well leave some wondering, “How might this project affect others?”

For starters, we need to look at the effects of the tar sands processes that are the source of oil extraction. The amount of CO2 locked up in Alberta tar sands is enormous and this method used to extract oil has been proven to only increase greenhouse gas emissions. This would be equivalent to an extra four million cars producing emissions in the United States. Many Americans would experience distributive injustice and soon our goal to stabilize carbon emissions would be almost useless if this continues.

Image                   Image

The consequence that deserves more attention is the potential contamination of the Ogallala aquifer. The XL pipeline will travel from Alberta, Canada to Houston and Port Arthur, Texas. During that route, the pipeline if designed to run through one of the world’s largest aquifers (see maps above). Any potential leak/spill from this pipeline could severely damage the aquifer. A response to this would be that the pipelines would be designed to prevent any chance of accidental spills and therefore making it safe to run through the aquifer. The problem with that response fails to mention the potential for any type of seismic activity near the pipeline.


The map above shows past seismic activity in the same region as the pipeline route, indicating potential for damage for the pipeline. So routing a pipeline, that has the potential to break from seismic activity, through the world’s largest aquifer will. Many who are making the decision to accept the pipeline proposal will not experience any of the risks or consequences. It is the locals that will experience the distributive injustice if the pipeline breaks. Though some representatives of TransCanada claim that the pipeline will not rupture, history has a reputation of proving us wrong. “Our philosophy is to maintain ‘SafeShips’ and ‘Clean Seas’ within a performance environment that strives for commercial success” –BP

Regardless that many have come forward and spoken against the Keystone XL pipeline, the White House is still very much considering the approval of this project. There have been numerous protests stemming from the fear that the Keystone project could severely damage our environment in the United States and yet, Americans are receiving little, if none, procedural justice in this process. So far, the White House has the final decision; it’s as if we have no say as to how we can live in our own land. Recently, the Department of State has given the people a 45 day public comment period, but it is degrading attempt to appease the public. If this project passes, many Americans will experience environmental injustice and will have to live with the effects resulting from decisions to which they had no control over.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. April 23, 2013 at 7:33 pm

    Nice maps!

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