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Oil Spills Are Keystone XL’s Greatest Threat To Environment, Limited US State Department Report Concludes

The US State Department environmental assessment has identified an oil spill as the most likely threat the Keystone XL Pipeline presents to the environment. The report relies upon a Canadian Government study for its analysis of environmental impacts North of the border. The US segment of the pipeline is expected to have CO2 emissions – from “fuel use in construction vehicles and equipment, as well as, land clearing activities including open burning, and indirectly from electricity usage” – that will be the equivalent of 300,000 cars. “Climate changes are anticipated to occur regardless of any potential effects from the proposed Project,” the report states, but it also showed there is a substantial risk of a major oil spill. There were 1,692 pipeline “incidents” in the US during the six month period they studied. (1,027 of these were from the equipment used on pipelines and 321 were directly connected to pipelines.) There have been mixed reactions to this report.
Operational and proposed route of the Keystone Pipeline System. (Data source:TransCanada) – Meclee, Courtesy Wikipedia Commons

Operational and proposed route of the Keystone Pipeline System. (Data source:TransCanada) – Meclee, Courtesy Wikipedia Commons

According to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, more than half of the nation’s crude (1.8 million barrels a day) came out of the oil sands in 2012. Production is expected to increase to 5.8 b/d by 2030. 99% of this oil is currently shipped across the border and refined in the US.

Clare Demerse, federal policy director at the Pembina Institute, said, “Today’s final assessment is a clear improvement over the State Department’s March 2013 draft, which argued there was virtually no connection between pipelines and the growth in oilsands production. The final assessment is updated with stronger analysis that better reflects the environmental and market realities. The assessment now acknowledges that under some circumstances, constraints on new pipeline capacity could have ‘a substantial impact on oilsands production levels.’ In other words, building the Keystone XL pipeline could help spur increased oilsands production and the carbon pollution that goes with it.”



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