HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Akron Univ. School of Law

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Keystone XL Pipeline Generates Health Concerns

The Keystone XL pipeline, a 1,700-plus-mile pipeline proposed by TransCanada Corp. that would transport oil sands crude from Alberta, Canada to refineries in Port Arthur, Texas and other U.S. hubs, has not yet received a final permit. But the company is clearing land already, prompting a lawsuit announced last week by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and other environmental groups. This follows a summer of public protests against the pipeline, where according to reports, over 1200 people were arrested. Despite a finding in the draft Environmental Impact Statement that environmental effects will be limited, the lawsuit and protests are evidence that many do not share that conclusion. Comments on the draft EIS are due on October 9.

According to a report by Friends of the Earth, it will contain one of the world’s dirtiest fuels (tar sands oil), and along its route it could devastate ecosystems and pollute water sources. The Natural Resources Defense Council points out here that tar sands oil is dirtier and more corrosive than other oils, threatening rivers, songbirds and communities along its route. Nine Nobel Peace Prize Winners wrote a letter to President Obama urging him to reject the pipeline, condemning it for the threats it will pose to communities in its path, the Ogallala Aquifer it will traverse, and the global climate it will alter. Among others, it was signed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and American landmines activist Jody Williams.

A Washington Post editorial disagrees: it may contain dirty fuel, but will not add to the climate change or its impacts on human health, since if the pipeline is not built, the oil will be transported and used elsewhere. PBS Newshour probably put it best: since the project promises to provide many jobs, it is fueling yet another environment versus economy debate. 

[MM]

 

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