Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

US: Canadian Oil Pipeline Hazardous to the Environment

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

US: Canadian Oil Pipeline Hazardous to the Environment

Article excerpt

A controversial oil-sands pipeline operated by a Canadian oil company was ordered shut down Friday on charges that its continued operation would be hazardous to lives and the environment.

A controversial oil-sands pipeline operated by a Canadian oil company was ordered shut down Friday by the US Department of Transportation on charges that its continued operation "would be hazardous to lives, property, and the environment."

TransCanada, a leading North American pipeline operator, started operation of Keystone I, a 36-inch pipeline system, in June 2010, making it possible to deliver Canadian oil to markets across Midwest farmland in several states, from the Dakotas through Illinois.

The company wants to expand the system so that it snakes from the Canadian province of Alberta, taking oil southeast through Oklahoma and eventually into refineries located in Nederland, Tex., along the Gulf Coast. The company says its new system, titled Keystone XL, will contribute $20 billion to the US economy through job creation and local property taxes.

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However, the shutdown this week may create obstacles to getting final approval from the US State Department, which is faced with weighing the benefit of receiving 1.29 million barrels, or 54 million gallons, of oil per day into US markets with the environmental risks of having potentially hazardous crude oil moving across thousands of miles of fertile farmland and into its primary freshwater aquifer.

A decision is expected by the end of this year.

The order to shut down the existing pipeline follows two leaks, on May 7 and May 29. The first, according to the order, released 400 barrels, or 16,800 gallons, of crude oil in Sargent County, North Dakota. The second involved a leak at a pump station in Doniphan County, Kan., which released 10 barrels, or 420 gallons, of crude oil into the environment.

In his eight-page order, Jeffrey Wiese, an associate administrator for pipeline safety, said he is directing the shutdown due to "the proximity of the pipeline to populated areas, water bodies, public roadways and high consequence areas, the hazardous nature of the product the pipeline transports, the ongoing investigation to determine the cause of the failures, and the potential for the conditions causing the failures to be present elsewhere on the pipeline. …

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