Keystone XL Comment Period Extended to September 15

With the recent oil spills (BP’s disaster in the Gulf and  Enbridge’s Kalamazoo pipeline rupture in Michigan), it is clear that current federal regulations are not strict enough to safeguard drinking and agricultural water from the Keystone XL pipeline. The pipeline would cross 71 rivers and streams as well as the Ogallala Aquifer, which provides life-giving water to eight states and supports one-fifth of the wheat, corn, cotton, and cattle produced in the United States. Unless stopped, the Keystone XL pipeline will travel 1700 miles from Canada to refineries near Houston putting water supplies and the environment at risk.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has extended the Keystone XL comment period until September 15, 2010. Because the Keystone XL pipeline crosses the US-Canadian border,  a Presidential Permit is required from the U.S. Department of State. 

The Environmental Protection Agency recently gave the State Department’s draft analysis of the proposed pipeline’s environmental impacts a failing grade, in part because it failed to address the dangers the pipeline would pose to communities along its path. Fifty members of Congress  submitted a letter to Secretary of State Clinton to press her and the Obama administration not to rush to approve a new tar sands oil pipeline.

Deadline:  September 15, 2010

Please express your views by writing, calling or emailing Madam Secretary at:

The Honorable Hillary Clinton
Secretary of State
2201 C Street N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20520


Oil sands and greenhouse gas pollution

Production of oil from tar sands bitumen produces between 3 and 5 times the greenhouse gas pollution of conventional oil production.

By 2015, the oil sands could emit more greenhouse gases than the nation of Denmark (pop. 5.4 million).

EPA’s Cynthia Giles figured that 900,000 barrels of tar sand a day translated into 36 million tons of greenhouse gases a year, or 27 million tons more than conventional crude. That’s roughly equivalent to “annual CO2 emissions of seven coal-fired plants.” (For the record, the Keystone XL project now fouls the atmosphere with about 37 million tons a year. That’s more than the emissions generated by the state of Montana or the province of Manitoba.)

Oil sands extraction uses significant amounts of water (2 - 4.5 barrels per barrel of oil produced), which ends up in toxic tailings lagoons that have never been successfully reclaimed. An analysis using industry data estimated that these lagoons already leak over a billion gallons of contaminated water into the environment each year.

Senator Henry Waxman, chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, noted that the carbon intensity of U.S. transportation fuel could increase by as much as 37 percent if the country shifts to dirty tar sands crude.

Waxman also calculated that the pipeline, by doubling tar sands imports to more than three million barrels a day, would add the carbon equivalent of “18 million passenger vehicles to the roads.” Waxman concluded that importing more of “the dirtiest source of transportation fuel currently available” would simply erase the benefits of new motor vehicle standards.

Oil sands harm human health

Oil sands production harms human health in at least two ways: when extracted, and when processed and refined from bitumen into gasoline. 

Communities downstream, in some cases hundreds of miles downstream, have been impacted: directly - with elevated cancer rates; and indirectly - with their subsistence economy endangered by polluted fisheries. 

Communities adjacent to tar sands oil refineries face increased carbon dioxide emissions and increased exposure to heavy metals and sulfurs.

The incidents of rare forms of cancer are rising exponentially in areas adjacent to tar sands processing plants.

Dirty oil sands pollutes more than conventional oil

The spread of refineries processing tar sands oil is a problem because the synthetic heavy crude produced from tar sands is laden with more toxics than conventional oil. 

Communities adjacent to tar sands oil refineries face increased carbon dioxide emissions, and increased exposure to heavy metals, and sulfurs.

TransCanada seeks safety waiver

This safety waiver would allow TransCanada to use thinner-than-normal steel and pump oil at a higher-than-normal pressure.

Alberta government publishes erroneous information 

The Alberta government continues to publish erroneous information on emissions from the tar sands. In June 2010, the government issued a new fact sheet on the steam plants (45 percent of bitumen production and rising), boasting that they produced but 60 kilograms of CO2 per unrefined barrel. Yet even the province’s Energy Resources Conservation Board estimates the real figure is probably around 90 kilograms.

The U.S. National Energy Technology Lab, which has no investment in bitumen exports, has already calculated that diesel fuel refined from bitumen creates 244 percent more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional sources.

Dumping risks onto the United States

Exports of raw unprocessed bitumen to the United States means “that emissions associated with the upgrading and refining of bitumen were increasingly avoided in Canada.” In other words, the tar sands industry is dumping the climate and security risks of bitumen exports on the backs of U.S. refiners and consumers by simply processing less crude here.

Houston, where most of the refining would take place, already struggles to meet air quality standards and is growing increasingly concerned over the impact of refining tar sands crude, which produces higher levels of pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulates and heavy metals.

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September 30th 2010

james osborn - An oil spill which is enevitable isn't the largest concern. The first transcanada pipeline used all pipe from Indonesia and china. The Chinese have been sending us contaminated food,clothing,drywall,dogfood,childrens toys and God knows what else. They buried the pipeline in swampy areas as much as possible saying that it was cheaper. The veterans from Iraq and Iran haveing any kind of wound caused by any type of metal have infections that we can't stop, they have figured out away too contaminate metal which causes the infection that even our top line antibiotics can't kill if they can do it the Chineese surely will so why on earth would we chance thier pipi in our water stop this insanity no pipeline should cross any portion of the auquifer period.