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Unveiling the Real Story Behind the Keystone Pipeline

The Keystone XL Pipeline, has been the most publicly misguided energy initiative in politics and the media since its inception in 2008. The pipeline, which has completed most of its construction, travels from Alberta, Canada through the middle of the U.S. to refineries in Houston and Port Arthur, TX. The plan has been proposed by (not surprisingly) a transnational oil company, TransCanada, which has goals of profitability to reach above all else. Despite significant hesitation and opposition to the project from Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and the EPA, the project has completed most of its phases. More important than ignoring important stakeholders mentioned above, there has been a distinct motivation to veil the other side of this project. Thus, the transcontinental project has appeared to bolster the local and national economy, be sensitive to nearby landowners, and wean us off foreign oil. Before continuing, it should be noted these are just a few illusions that political entities supporting this project wish you to believe.

            The clear failure to address the “other side” in this debate displays the lack of recognition and participation by those most affected by its construction and operation. For example, phase Three, which connects the final piece from Cushing, Oklahoma to Port Arthur and Houston, Texas, has financially and physically hurt those living nearby. The displacement of residents and the immoral and illegal seizure of land shows a clear denial of their opinions and rights. Claims of eminent domain by the company often fail to even identify their right to take land, and it is not uncommon that just compensation by law has gone unmet. A project of this size seemingly went through rigorous analysis and specifications in order to pass through such a large area. However, the ambiguity of the environmental impact statement (EIS) spawned a lot of environmental uncertainty. More precisely, significant efforts to hide the eminent domain and EIS trial cases from the media have gone from lobbying congress to bribing local news stations. Specific impacts to local air and water resources were vague at best. To the unveiled eye, people’s health circumstances must be of secondary importance. The Keystone covers a great expanse of one of the largest and most sensitive (essentially made out of sand) aquifers, the Ogallala, yet it has barely been evaluated throughout its construction.

            Advocates for the pipeline have ignored the most basic protocol for construction, yet surely this isn’t true since the project is approaching completion, right? Those in governance roles favor the project in support of the thousands of jobs that it creates, in addition to helping secure our energy independence from the Middle East. Ironically, the project fails to meet even its own two goals though. The U.S. department of State has debunked these myths, as a large proportion of the jobs created by this project have been and will continue to be only temporary throughout the phases. Also, only five to ten percent of the U.S. demand for oil will be met by this new source of supply, thereby sustaining our relationship with the Middle-East. While the impacts to the physical and local environment have gone into limbo, the political-economic impacts have failed to be accurately determined as well.  

            The additional oil to be refined and dumped into Port Arthur and Houston, TX presents a new burden for local residents. Primarily black, poor communities sacrifice their bodies in these locations by inhaling toxic emissions from refinery plants; in some areas  The targeting of big oil companies to put their refineries in such locations, in addition to failing to offer more permanent jobs, was aimed at a group completely void of financial or socio-political voice. As best put by a Sierra Club (NGO) letter to the EPA: “Recent documents indicate that federal housing for poor

minorities was allowed to be built in Port Arthur directly

adjacent to these large polluting facilities with little regard for the health and welfare of those citizens.” Meanwhile, skeptics of this disproportionate burden claim that the residents in this area either moved to the nuisance in the first place and could “vote” by not moving there in the first place or leaving. Incredibly insensitive and ignorant claims as these are what’s barring even the most basic recognition of problems that the Keystone pipeline brings. If anything is to be done to remediate the already lacking protocol of this Keystone project, then it must be to adhere to these people’s minimal requests at least, in order to alleviate already substantial physical harm.

            Since the bulk of the Keystone project has already been completed in conjunction with denying many rights of people involved directly and indirectly, environmental and economic remediation must be completed to compensate those harmed. The misconception of economic growth, environmental safety, and sensitivity to local residents from this project has led to a failure in addressing even the most basic concerns of people in its proximity.  Therefore, it is vital for the justice of people affected by this that the Keystone Pipeline project is engaged by all with an accurate perspective of its environmental, socio-economic, and justice problems, so that compensation can be adequately acquired.

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