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NEWS: New York Times says Keystone pipeline ‘a major threat to water supplies’

A New York Times editorial yesterday states, “Later this year, the State Department will decide whether to approve construction of a 1,700-mile oil pipeline from Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast called Keystone XL. The underground 36-inch pipeline, built by TransCanada, would link the tar sands fields of northern Alberta to Texas refineries and begin operating in 2013. The department should say no. …Moving ahead would be a huge error. From all of the evidence, Keystone XL is not only environmentally risky, it is unnecessary.”

The editorial notes, “The project poses a major threat to water supplies on both sides of the border. Turning two tons of tar sand into a barrel of oil requires four times as much water as producing a barrel of conventional oil. Operations in Alberta have already created 65 square miles of toxic holding ponds, which kill migrating birds and pollute downstream watersheds, a serious matter for native communities. In the United States, the biggest potential problem is pipeline leaks. The Keystone XL would carry bitumen — which is more corrosive than crude oil — thinned with other petroleum condensates and then pumped at high pressure and at a temperature of more than 150 degrees through the pipeline. Last July, an older bitumen pipeline in Michigan spilled 800,000 gallons of the stuff into the Kalamazoo River. A new TransCanada pipeline that began carrying diluted bitumen last year has already had nine spills.”

It also highlights, “The Keystone XL would cut diagonally across Montana and the Nebraska Sand Hills — a delicate region of porous, sandy soils — to northern Kansas before heading south to the Gulf. It would also cross the Ogallala Aquifer, a shallow underground reservoir of enormous importance for agriculture that also provides drinking water for two million people. A pipeline leaking diluted bitumen into groundwater could have disastrous consequences.”

In February, the Calgary Herald reported that, “Prime Minister Stephen Harper made a personal pitch (on February 4) for President Barack Obama to support a controversial $7-billion pipeline that could double the amount of Alberta oilsands crude exported to the United States (at the time they met to announce plans for a new security perimeter). Harper confirmed he pressed Obama on Calgary-based TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline during the two leaders’ hour-long meeting at the White House.”

The Council of Canadians has raised concerns about the impact of the pipeline on the Ogallala aquifer in several campaign blogs including http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=6379. In early-March, Food & Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter issued this statement of concern about the proposed pipeline, http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=6783.

The New York Times editorial is at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/03/opinion/03sun1.html?_r=2.