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- The oil and gas industry and other supporters of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline have long touted the benefits of transporting oil by pipeline, arguing that pipelines are the safest way to move large quantities of oil and downplaying the risks of leaks and spills. But new documents released this week suggest that oil pipelines aren’t quite as safe as industry officials would like to believe. Far from getting safer over time, documents obtained from the Canadian government this week showed that the rate of pipeline incidents has actually doubled since 2000. CBC reports, “By 2011, safety-related incidents — covering everything from unintentional fires to spills — rose from one to two for every 1,000 kilometres of federally-regulated pipeline. That reflects an increase from 45 total incidents in 2000 to 142 in 2011.”
This increase in pipeline leaks and spills is likely a result of failure by the industry to maintain pipeline infrastructure as it ages, a troubling sign of things to come. In fact, National Wildlife Federation recently conducted a diving expedition to obtain footage of some of these aging pipelines and document the degree to which they have fallen into disrepair. They found that, due to failures in pipeline upkeep, corrosion had broken away some of the original supports on the pipelines and some sections of the suspended pipelines were covered in large piles of debris.
Even more disturbing, many of these leaks and spills are kept secret, allowing industry to sell the public a distorted picture of its ability to maintain pipelines and prevent dangerous incidents. In North Dakota, for example, where more oil is produced than in any other state but Texas, the state is not required to disclose oil spills to the public. As a result, the American people were kept in the dark about as many as 300 pipeline spills and over 750 “oil field incidents” since 2012.
- In the face of growing criticism of tar sands pipelines and opposition to Keystone XL, pipeline proponents have worked harder to perpetuate the myth that rail is a viable, if less safe, alternative to pipelines. Though it may be convenient for industry advocates who sense that the tides have shifted against Keystone to emphasize rail and make the argument that Keystone is not important to overall tar sands expansion, this argument is not based in reality. This was one of the major flaws in the State Department’s Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (DSEIS) on the pipeline, which came to the unsubstantiated conclusion that tar sands oil would find its way to market with or without Keystone XL, mainly because rail could serve as a simple replacement to pipelines. The EPA was highly critical of this claim, noting that “the discussion in the DSEIS regarding energy markets, while informative, is not based on an updated energy-economic modeling effort.”
Countless industry analysts have echoed this sentiment, pointing to the fact that rail is not a feasible substitute for Keystone XL. As Reuters reports this week, “Even rail operators caution that moving the fuel on the tracks would be only a supplement - not a substitute - for TransCanada Corp's Keystone pipeline. Apart from the logistics, rail remains the costlier option - a point that environmentalists could seize on as the final decision on Keystone draws nearer. The extra dollars spent on shipping could slow investment in some of Canada's higher-cost projects, analysts say.”
As both pipe and rail become increasingly problematic, it is clear that the only safe, viable option for tar sands crude is to leave it in the ground.
- “The pipelines that are in the ground are getting older and in some cases there's more products flowing through them so you're going to see increasing incidents and increasing defects in those pipelines unless they're properly maintained.” –Nathan Lemphers, of the Pembina Institute, on the increase in pipeline leaks and spills that is likely a result of failure by the industry to maintain pipeline infrastructure as it ages
- "We can move large volumes, but it will always be a niche service." – Gary Kubera, whose company transports tar sands crude by rail, on the false assumption that rail could ever replace pipelines
- "The question is, what impact would this have on consumer prices? The answer is none. Keystone wouldn't have a significant impact either way on overall North American energy prices.” - Curt Launer, a managing director at Deutsche Bank, arguing that there's no reason to believe that direct economic benefits shared by TransCanada and Canadian oil producers would be passed on to individual gasoline consumers
- Will Keystone affect gas prices? No, not really – Confirming what pipeline opponents have been arguing for years, industry experts say that building Keystone will not lower gas prices
- Keystone XL: Groups seek answers in State Dept. Keystone XL conflict of interest investigation - Pressing for answers to the conflict of interest scandal tainting a key review of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, environmental and public interest groups are seeking a meeting with the State Department's inspector general to discuss his ongoing investigation of a key consultant's ties to pipeline builder TransCanada and the oil and gas industry
- Ponca Trail of Tears Spiritual Camp to Rise Inside Keystone XL Pipeline Route – In a project with Bold Nebraska, descendents of the Ponca Tribe will host a Spiritual Camp in Nebraska from Nov. 8-11, to draw the line against the Keystone XL pipeline's potential destruction and disrespect to the sacred sites along the Trail of Tears of the Ponca Nation.
Executive Order -- Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change - President Obama issued a new executive order to help states and communities better prepare for severe weather and other effects of climate disruption