Keys to the Keystone Pipeline Controversy

Tracy Hunsaker Gilroy's Eminent Domain Legal Blogs

Licensed for 33 years

Attorney in St. Louis, MO

Pipelines carry billions of gallons of fuel through North America every day.

The pipeline generating the most controversy is the Keystone Gulf Coast Expansion, known as Keystone XL. It’s TransCanada’s $7 billion project to extend its Keystone Pipeline from Canada to Texas.

The expanded pipeline would take oil from one of the biggest deposits in the world and send it 2000 miles to the Gulf of Mexico to be refined.

The proposal has triggered a fierce debate.

Supporters of the expansion say it could supply half the amount of oil the U.S. now imports from the Middle East or South America.  And they argue that the project would provide thousands of jobs and energy security for years to come.

Critics see the potential for problems.

In the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf and an Exxon Mobil spill in Montana, they’re concerned about possible leaks from the Keystone expansion.

The pipe would run through the Sandhills wetland of Nebraska and the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the largest aquifers in the country. Environmental critics say a leak in those areas would be devastating.

The environmental impact is only one source of controversy.

Opponents want to know if the oil processed by American refineries will be exported rather than sold to Americans.

In addition to those concerns, there’s a conflict of interest issue.

Critics question the relationship between the State Department and the company hired to produce the environmental impact report.

They also believe Keystone XL undermines the effort to create green jobs and sends a message that Canada is not committed to reaching its Kyoto targets.

In response to these objections, the project’s advocates argue that without Keystone XL, tar sand production would still continue elsewhere and Canadian oil would ultimately be shipped 6,000 miles across the Pacific to be refined in less-regulated Chinese facilities.

Given the enormous energy needs of the U.S., Keystone XL will remain a major source of debate. Whether it’s approved or denied, its political impact is likely to be substantial.

The State Department is now preparing to conduct a new environmental review, with input from the public on the scope of that review.

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