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Op-Ed

Ignoring the Locally Vulnerable in the Quest for National Energy Security 

            If Secretary of State, John Kerry accepts the Keystone XL pipeline project, vulnerable communities neighboring the pipeline will be the ones to bear the environmental costs. The proposed Keystone XL is the fourth phase that will expand the existing pipeline to carry tar sand’s crude oil from Alberta, Canada south through the Great Plains to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico. Pipeline advocates have ignored the human health costs that minority communities will have to pay for supposed “energy security” and “job creation”. This outlines an approach in which smaller populations of people are being disregarded for the greater good of the nation. An attitude that today is far too often applied by our national leaders.

            Tar sands oil extraction, and the crude oil to be sent through the Keystone XL Pipelines  erodes the human health of communities living around the region. One study published in the Open Conservation Biology Journal in 2009 found that chronic exposure to tar sands extraction caused cardiovascular disease, increases in respiratory disease, and lung cancer. The tarlike fuel will then be shipped down into the U.S. where it will be refined and release vast quantities of toxic chemicals into the surrounding communities.

            Heading south, the land projected to be effected by the pipeline’s construction and operations is 95% privately owned land and is also home to a number of Native American communities and reservations, including various Sioux groups located in Nebraska. These communities located adjacent to the proposed pipeline route will be exposed to future leaks and spills that would ruin the land and ecology for which they subsist and depend on. The negative effects of a potential spill are all too familiar for the people who reside along the Kalamazoo River in Michigan, which became the site of one of the largest inland tar sands oil disasters in US history when the Lakehead Pipeline 6B ruptured. A resident of the region interviewed by The Canadian said that the health effects she has suffered since the spill include migraine headaches, burning eyes, a constant sore throat, and a “cloudy brain” condition that she half-jokingly labels “Oil Alzheimer’s”.

            The proponents of the Pipeline have not been shy about expressing their support for the plan. They see it as a solution to all of America’s problems, a solution that in their minds has no negative effect on anyone if it is not negatively affecting them. The creation of jobs and energy security are two positive results of the pipeline that are voiced repeatedly. First, the purported massive jobs-creation project is temporary, with only left to be employed during operation.  Second, Canadian tar sands oil still represents a foreign source of oil.  I am not sure how we will be secure, when we will still be receiving and depending on oil for another country. Indeed, Canada has increasingly started to do more and more business with China, making Canada less dependent on US demand.

            In conclusion, this pipeline will have adverse results on small neighboring communities, such as health problems that arise at the point source location in Canada and persist all the way down the pipeline to Texas, and the risk of home and land destruction with pipeline breaks if construction on it is not rejected by Secretary of State Kerry. Simply put, the nation as a whole will never be bettered if individual citizens comprising it are overlooked. 

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