skip to main content

→ Top Stories:
Fracking
Safe Chemicals
Defending the Clean Air Act

Susan Casey-Lefkowitz’s Blog

Tar sands is not your Granddaddy's oil: Southern segment of Keystone XL tar sands pipeline puts Oklahoma and Texas lands and waters at risk

Susan Casey-Lefkowitz

Posted March 20, 2012 in Curbing Pollution, Environmental Justice, Moving Beyond Oil, Saving Wildlife and Wild Places, Solving Global Warming

Tags:
, , , , ,
Share | | |

Thumbnail image for TX_landowner_rally.jpg

 

President Obama is speaking about energy this week. He has a lot of important things to say about the very real need to move forward with renewable energy and fuel efficiency, and he has committed to ending subsidies to the oil industry. However, he will also be promoting new oil pipeline infrastructure in the US and there is one proposed pipeline that needs to be called out as different from the others. The Canadian company TransCanada has split its reapplication for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline in two. The proposed southern segment of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is one of the possible pipelines to bring oil from the Midwest to the Gulf Coast. But in the long-term, the oil that it will bring is likely to be mostly tar sands oil from Canada, not U.S. oil. This means additional health and safety concerns from pipeline oil spills, as well as concerns for additional pollution in refining communities in the Gulf. Don’t be fooled – tar sands is not your Granddaddy’s oil.

Splitting the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline doesn’t make it any better – not for our energy independence, not for oil prices and certainly not for our health and our environment. Keystone XL in any form would actually undermine national security and increase oil prices by reducing the amount of oil in the Midwest and sending tar sands oil overseas, as this NRDC report shows.  Similarly, a report just out from Cornell University shows that the potential environmental and economic risks from a tar sands pipeline spill – regardless of whether it happens in the Ogallala Aquifer in Nebraska, the Carrizo-Wilcox aquifer in Texas or in the Red River and its tributaries along the Texas-Oklahoma border.

As for what will actually be moving on Keystone XL's southern route: TransCanada has made commitments to transport approximately 600,000 barrels a day (bpd) of crude on the full Keystone XL pipeline. Of this, TransCanada has said that 380,000 bpd is for Canadian crude to Texas - most if not all of which will likely be tar sands. At the same time, the on-ramp for domestic oil in Cushing seems to only allow a maximum of 150,000 bpd on the Keystone system. For more detail on TransCanada’s commitments for Keystone XL see the final environmental impact statement on the Keystone XL project, pages 2-4.     

If the southern segment is built before the northern segment is completed, TransCanada’s proposed infrastructure would physically limit U.S. domestic crude shipments to 150,000 bpd, less than 20% of the pipeline’s capacity. The only other source for crude oil would be from Canada. TransCanada's first Keystone pipeline carrying raw tar sands ends in Cushing, Oklahoma where the southern segment of Keystone XL takes up.  There is no infrastructure that allows injection of U.S. oil between the border with Canada and Cushing.  Moreover, TransCanada’s first Keystone pipeline is not being fully utilized and that excess capacity could end up being used to ship tar sands oil to the Gulf. In addition, we could see diversion of tar sands from Midwestern refineries to the Gulf Coast refineries.

What is clear is that review of a Keystone XL tar sands pipeline southern segment needs to take the potential for tar sands oil spills into account – since all available information points to the fact that the southern segment will not just be for US domestic oil.

Americans have resoundingly said they don’t want another tar sands pipeline. Not in the northern half of our country; not in the southern half of our country. During a single day in February, for instance, Americans sent more than 800,000 messages to their members of Congress condemning the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline project. 

And President Obama said about the decision to conduct additional review of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline back in November 2011: “Because this permit decision could affect the health and safety of the American people as well as the environment, and because a number of concerns have been raised through a public process, we should take the time to ensure that all questions are properly addressed and all the potential impacts are properly understood.” This statement should hold true equally for the ranchers and landowners along the northern part of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, as for those in Oklahoma and Texas.

 

Share | | |

Comments

BSMar 20 2012 10:20 PM

http://whitehouse.blogs.cnn.com/2012/03/20/obama-to-fast-track-southern-half-of-keystone-xl-pipeline/?hpt=hp_t3

Give up. Your campaign of misinformation and lies has failed. With the southern portion built, it's only a matter of time before it stretches to Montana to pick up Bakken crude and then across the border to pick up those "evil" tar sands.

Oh, and with a 600Mbpd of committments on XL, that still leaves a lot of room for more American oil, too.

EnviroSmartMar 21 2012 04:01 PM

Hooray for Obama. He shut down the pipeline. He is headed to Oklohoma to do what?! @#$%^&&*

BSMar 21 2012 05:19 PM

EnviroSmart--Read the link in my comment.

jetMar 21 2012 05:34 PM

I'm very interested to see the legal justification for 'decoupling' the southern segment after preparing a Purpose and Need that showed it would carry tar sands oil. It seems to me that this is a potential legal blunder on the part of the State Department and that it will lead to almost immediate litigation and a potential stay of the approval.

BSMar 21 2012 09:26 PM

The State Department has no authority over a pipeline that does not cross an international boundary. That is why they decoupled the southern segment.

Comments are closed for this post.

About

Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

Feeds: Susan Casey-Lefkowitz’s blog

Feeds: Stay Plugged In