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TransCanada: What’s in Keystone XL Doesn’t Matter

December 23, 2010

TransCanada CEO Russ Girling says that the fact that Keystone XL will be carrying heavy tar sands crude diluted with a cocktail of toxic chemicals shouldn’t factor in the decision on siting the pipeline across iconic American river corridors, the ecologically delicate Nebraska Sandhills, and the Ogallala Aquifer. In an article posted yesterday on, Girling argues that stopping Keystone XL won’t make any difference to tar sands development, remarking:

The Canadian oilsands is the second-largest oil reserve in the world. It’s available to the world to develop. It will be developed responsibly, in my view, irrespective of whether we build a pipeline or not.

This is an interesting rhetorical position to take. Up to this point, TransCanada has insisted that the Keystone system was necessary for U.S. energy security and to ensure access to “friendly” oil. If we don’t really need Keystone XL, and the risks are so real, then it’s harder to understand why this pipeline, at this time, along this route, should be built.

Girling trots out the usual assurances about his unleakable pipeline system (which is already leaking on the Keystone I stretch and being dug up to check anomalies). No pipeline safety system is foolproof. Plains Justice’s recent pipeline emergency response report indicated that even when the control center registered a drop in pipeline pressure in the recent catastrophic Michigan pipeline spill, valves weren’t permanently shut for many hours, as nearly 1 million gallons of oil poured into the Kalamazoo River and almost made it to Lake Michigan. In our comments on the Keystone XL Draft Environmental Impact Statement, Plains Justice and many plains state allies cite a pipeline engineer’s concerns that the kind of heavy crude being shipped on the Keystone system would sink in any water body and be far more difficult to clean up than lighter forms of oil. So yes, Mr. Girling, it does matter what’s in the pipe.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 23, 2010 5:15 pm

    Also, he’s telling shareholders that tar sands expansion *requires* his pipeline. Here’s my writeup on that

  2. April 12, 2011 8:16 pm

    Bitumen heated to over 1200 F is what they intend to use this pipeline for – and they themselves(Canadians) have strong opposition to the proposed Western pipeline across their own prairie.

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