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U.S. regulators find continued operation of the Keystone tar sands pipeline to be a "hazard to life, property and the environment"

Anthony Swift

Posted June 3, 2011 in Curbing Pollution, Moving Beyond Oil, Solving Global Warming, U.S. Law and Policy

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After investigating the recent leaks on the Keystone tar sands pipeline, U.S. pipeline regulators at the Department of Transportation (DOT) have ordered TransCanada to shut the pipeline down, finding that “failure to issue this Order expeditiously to require immediate corrective action would result in likely serious harm to life, property, and the environment.” If you don’t get the bureaucrat speak here, that means that regulators have real concerns about more spills if they turn this ‘state of the art’ pipeline back on. Twelve tar sands oil spills in one year is rightly too much for the Department of Transportation to stomach. Considering that TransCanada is the same company proposing the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, the government should be putting that permitting process on hold until it figures out how to protect the health and safety of people, land and water near these toxic tar sands pipelines.

This should be a clarion call for the State Department to seriously consider the safety concerns posed by Keystone XL, a second, larger raw tar sand pipeline that TransCanada hopes to build through the Ogallala Aquifer. The State Department needs to give U.S. pipeline regulators at the Department of Transportation time to sort out what has gone so horribly wrong with Keystone before moving forward with Keystone XL. The history of Keystone has shown that these pipelines are dangerous – State shouldn’t fast track the review of Keystone XL until we know how they can be built and operated safely.

That the Keystone pipeline has been found to be a hazard to public safety after less than a year of operation demonstrates how serious some of the safety concerns associated with diluted bitumen may be. The order prevents TransCanada from restarting operations on their Keystone crude oil pipeline until regulators are satisfied with the ongoing repairs and is confident that all immediate safety concerns have been addressed. Pipeline regulators have ordered TransCanada to begin immediate repairs and testing on Keystone. The company will also be required to perform metallurgical testing and root cause failure analysis, review other parts of the pipeline system for concerns similar to those involved in the recent failures, and continue ongoing monitoring.

Industry proponents have attempted to brush Keystone’s spills aside as “little new car issues.” If so, Keystone is proving to be one lemon of a pipeline. Fortunately our pipeline regulators know the difference between a new car smell and a faulty brake system – and have issued a recall on the Keystone tar sand pipeline.

The State Department already approved one lemon with Keystone. The question now is - after listening to the same sales pitch about safety and economic impacts that have been proven untrue for Keystone, is it going to saddle us with another lemon by approving Keystone XL?

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