After nearly six years of review, the Keystone XL pipeline is perhaps the most studied pipeline in the world. It’s also likely the only pipeline that’s been consistently in the media spotlight. So it was very surprising to see a recent NBC news article, entitled “‘We Will Fight’: Keystone XL Pipeline Foes Fear Worst for Water Supply,” completely ignore the findings of landmark government reports, key scientific reviews or any research from water experts and rely almost exclusively on the perspective of anti-Keystone XL activists.
Remarkably, the article fails to mention the most important government study on Keystone XL: the State Department’s Environmental Impact Statement. The exhaustive report, which is required by law, found that the pipeline would have a “minimal impact on the environment.” Specifically regarding the Ogallala aquifer, the State Department found that “[T]here is an extremely low probability that a petroleum release from the proposed Project would affect water quality in [the Western Interior Plains Aquifer].”
Regarding the type of oil that would travel in the pipeline, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) rightly explained, “Diluted bitumen has density and viscosity ranges that are comparable with those of other crude oils. It moves through pipelines in a manner similar to other crude oils with respect to flow rate, pressure, and operating temperature.” Peter Lidiak, pipeline director for the American Petroleum Institute, noted about the conclusion of the report, “Since the U.S. Office of Pipeline Safety began keeping detailed statistics in 2002, not a single corrosion-related pipeline release from pipelines carrying any Canadian crude has been reported. Pipelines remain a safe and reliable mode of transportation for the vital energy resources Americans needs. We hope the NAS study will finally put false claims to the contrary to rest.”
Leading water experts in the United States agree. Bert Fisher, hydro-geologist at the University of Tulsa, found that in the unlikely event that a spill did happen, the oil wouldn’t get more than 1,000 feet from the pipeline. Further, the water saturation of the soil, combined with the viscous nature of crude oil, would make it very hard for a crude oil spill to move through the aquifer. In Nebraska, James Goeke, who is viewed widely as one of the leading water experts in the United States said, “A leak from the XL pipeline would pose a minimal risk to the aquifer as a whole.” Professor Goeke concluded about Keystone XL pipeline that “If people recognize the science of the situation, I think that should allay a lot of the fears.” But for some reason, NBC failed to include these expert findings.
The evidence is overwhelming that it’s safe for oil sands crude to travel through a pipeline. It’s also clear that Keystone XL would create tens of thousands of jobs and enhance our energy security. The State Department found that Keystone XL will support 42,100 jobs and put $2 billion in American workers’ pockets during construction, while other studies have found that the pipeline would create over 100,000 jobs in oil sands development related to Keystone XL.
With the benefits of Keystone XL being so clear, it’s not surprising that the American people overwhelmingly support its construction. One recent poll found that support for the pipeline was “almost universal,” while another poll found that most Americans believe the delay on Keystone XL is due to politics rather than “legitimate concerns.” They would be right.
Unfortunately, NBC news did its audience a disservice by failing to inform them of these basic facts.