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Major Spill Points Up Pipeline Risk


s the battle over the proposed Keystone XL

branded it with one of the agency’s worst ratings.

pipeline rages on, the extreme threat posed

“Among the errors and omissions in the State

by pumping hundreds of thou­sands of barrels

Department review is the mind-boggling assertion

a day of corrosive tar sands through America’s heartland

that this massive new pipeline would not drive

is no longer a matter of conjecture for one small

significantly more produc­t ion of tar sands oil and

town in Arkansas. More than 200,000 gallons of

thus increase global warming pollution,” says Swift.

heavy tar sands

Producing tar sands

crude spilled in

crude is so energy-

Mayflower, a suburb

intensive that it

north of Little Rock,

generates three times

after the Pegasus

as much global warm­

pipeline operated

ing pollution as the

by Exxon­Mobil

production of conven­

ruptured in March,

tional crude. That is


especially alarming

backyards into toxic

given that the level

black swamps and

of heat-trapping

forcing residents

carbon dioxide in

to evacuate.

our atmosphere

The Keystone XL An ExxonMobil pipeline spilled 200,000 gallons in Arkansas.


far larger than Pegasus, snaking 2,000 miles from

barrier of 400 parts per million for the first time in at

Canada to the Gulf of Mexico and carrying more

least three million years. At this rate humanity could

than 800,000 barrels of toxic tar sands oil a day.

reach 450 ppm in just 20 years, at which point, most

“Pipelines operating at temperatures above 100

climate scientists agree, there will be catastrophic and

degrees have been found to spill up to 23 times more

irreversible consequences. “If we want to make the

often than conventional pipelines due to external

climate better we have to stop making it worse,” says

corrosion,” says Anthony Swift, an attorney with

NRDC President Frances Beinecke. “We can’t afford

NRDC’s International Program. “Keystone XL

more climate-wrecking projects like this one.”

would be one of those pipelines.”

NRDC continues to be at the forefront of the fight

Because the Keystone XL would cross the border

against the Keystone XL. In April, our Members and

between the United States and Canada, the State

online activists were part of a nationwide protest that

Department is charged with evaluating its risk and

flooded the State Depart­ment with one million

determ­ining whether it would serve the national

messages challenging its woefully inadequate review

interest. Yet the department’s most recent assessment

of the pipeline. President Obama is expected to make

has received the equivalent of a failing grade from

a final decision about the Keystone XL by this fall.

the Environmental Protection Agency, which

Take action at:

Oil spill © EPA

pipeline would be

recently broke the


Nature's Voice Summer 2013