Trying to keep up with the latest news of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is a bit like watching a soap opera. The most recent news for As the Keystone Turns is that conservation groups filed a lawsuit challenging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ approval for the pipeline to be built through areas that include hundreds of rivers, streams, and wetlands without evaluation of its impacts. The National Environmental Policy Act and the Clean Water Act require environmental impact evaluations.
“The United States is still a country of laws, and this foreign corporation’s proposed tar sands pipeline has yet to prove it meets legal standards in the American court system,” said Dena Hoff, a Northern Plains Resource Council member, and Glendive, Montana farmer, in a statement. “We will continue this fight for the safety of Montanans and the livelihoods of farmers and ranchers who depend on clean water.”
Environmental hazards outweigh economic good
TransCanada’s proposed Keystone Pipeline XL would stretch 1,600 miles from Hardisty, Alberta to Nederland, Texas and would carry 900,000 barrels a day of crude oil and bitumen obtained from hydraulic fracturing, more commonly known as fracking. Although the economic benefits of the pipeline are touted, an analysis by the University of Pittsburgh found that the “environmental hazards the project would cause outweigh any possible benefit it could have.”
There are a number of environmental hazards associated with the pipeline:
- Grasslands in Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska would be destroyed.
- The equipment used to construct the pipeline would affect air quality.
- Animals living in the areas where the pipeline will be built would experience habitat loss. There are an estimated 23 species protected by the Endangered Species Act living in proposed construction areas.
- Leaks and spills could occur. During the first year of TransCanada’s original Keystone Pipeline System’s operation, it leaked 12 times. One of the leaks in North Dakota caused a 60-foot, 21,000-gallon geyser of tar sands oil.
A report by Cornell University Global Labor Institute found that the economic gains from the pipeline were exaggerated. The project will create about 2,500 to 4,650 temporary construction jobs for two years, according to data TransCanada gave to the State Department. The company’s claim that the pipeline will create 119,000 total jobs (direct, indirect, and induced) is “based on a flawed and poorly documented study commissioned by the TransCanada,” according to the Cornell report.
Environmental groups stand up to Trump
Opponents of the pipeline experienced a victory in November 2018 when a federal judge ruled that the Trump administration violated U.S. environmental laws when he approved a federal permit for the pipeline’s construction. The judge blocked all construction and ordered the federal government to revise its environmental evaluation. A federal court ruled in August 2018 that the State Department had to conduct another Environmental Impact Statement for the mainline alternative route, which the Nebraska Public Service Commission approved in November 2017.
The lawsuit filed in July is not the first one by environmentalists. A month after the federal court ruling, environmental groups sued the federal government for allowing the construction of the pipeline. The lawsuit contends that the Army Corps violated the Clean Water Act and National Environmental Policy Act when it issued a permit to allow nationwide construction of the pipeline.
Tell President Trump to say no to Keystone
President Trump responded to the November 2018 federal ruling by issuing a permit for TransCanada to build the pipeline. There is something concerned citizens can do. They can sign the petition by the Natural Resources Defense Council which urges Trump “to reverse course at once.”