Argument: The Keystone XL pipeline contains significant risk of spills

Issue Report: Keystone XL US-Canada oil pipeline


  • “Keystone XL Pipeline.” Friends of the Earth: “TransCanada already attempted to cut corners by seeking a safety waiver to build the pipeline with thinner-than-normal steel and to pump oil at higher-than-normal pressures. Thanks to the pressure exerted by Friends of the Earth and allies, the company withdrew its safety waiver application in August 2010. The threat of spills remains. In summer 2010, a million gallons of tar sands oil poured into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan from a pipeline run by another Canadian company, Enbridge. The spill exposed residents to toxic chemicals, coated wildlife and has caused long-term damage to the local economy and ecosystem. Heightening concerns, TransCanada’s Keystone I pipeline has spilled a dozen times in less than a year of operation, prompting a corrective action order from the Department of Transportation. Experts warn that the more acidic and corrosive consistency of the type of tar sands oil being piped into the U.S. makes spills more likely, and have joined the EPA in calling on the State Department to conduct a thorough study of these risks. The Keystone XL pipeline would traverse six U.S. states and cross major rivers, including the Missouri River, Yellowstone, and Red Rivers, as well as key sources of drinking and agricultural water, such as the Ogallala Aquifer, which supplies two million Americans.”

Opposing arguments

  • “Using the most advanced technology, the pipeline will be monitored 24 hours a day through a centralized control centre. 16,000 sensors embedded in the pipeline provide data via satellite every five seconds. If the slightest drop in pipeline pressure is detected, remote valves are automatically closed, shutting off the flow of oil within minutes.” [1]
  • TransCanada has committed to comply with regulations for low pressure, and pipeline thickness.
  • In the USA and Canada pipeline companies are responsible for all oil cleanups costs. For instance Enbridge spent $585 Million on the Talmadge Creek oil spill clean up efforts.
  • Oil spills are rare, because pipelines are regularly inspected. Codes control their construction, and operating characteristics such as pressure and flow rate.
  • A bad economy is bad for the environment.
  • Mankind is more important than the environment. At the end of the day, the sun is going to become a red-giant before it burns out and becomes a white dwarf. All life will be destroyed except what we can take with us. We should preserve biodiversity so that we can take as much with us that we can, but if the free world does not win in the next 100 years, then their won’t be much to take with us, when we go. We should be concerned about the environment, but we should also be concerned with people, and the power of free countries vs. the power of totalitarian regime that don’t respect human rights.