Environmental concerns plague fast-tracked oil pipeline
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. – In March 2008, the U.S. Department of State issued a federal permit for the 2,000-mile TransCanada Keystone Pipeline, which would carry heavy crude oil from the oil sands of northern Alberta across seven U.S. states to Oklahoma. The document was signed, even though mandated government-to-government consultations with concerned Native nations were described as ”ongoing” by the State Department.
Issues of importance to tribes that are still unsettled include environmental concerns, protection of sacred sites, and employment opportunities and other economic benefits.
Why the rush?
The problem the State Department needed to solve was surging production in the oil sands region. Output will rise from 2.4 million barrels of oil per day in 2006 to as many as 5.3 million barrels per day in 2020, according to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. This is occurring just as other reserves of oil are depleting worldwide, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Once extracted, the raw product must be sent to refineries. However, Canada can’t expand refinery capacity fast enough to cope with the increase – a situation Canada’s National Energy Board has described as ”urgent.” As a result, major oil companies working in Alberta have to get the oil someplace that can deal with it, said Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, director of the Canada Program of the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington, D.C.
And that’s where the United States and the TransCanada Keystone Pipeline come in.
However, this one pipeline isn’t all the oil companies need, said Casey-Lefkowitz. She pointed to more pipelines planned or under construction and proposed increases of U.S. refinery capacity.
”Concurrent with the Keystone proposal, U.S. refineries have expansion plans, including a new plant that [Dallas-based] Hyperion Resources is proposing in South Dakota,” she said, adding that this, in turn, means more local pollution and increased U.S. contribution to global warming.