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NRDC: Oil spills of late should impact Keystone XL deliberations

The Natural Resources Defense Council says that last weekend’s leak of 42,000 gallons of oil into the Yellowstone River, along with more than 800,000 gallons spilled into the Kalamazoo River last year and a rash of pipeline leaks along the Keystone I pipeline, should convince the State Department to nix the Keystone XL pipeline.

As we saw from the BP oil spill disaster in the Gulf, toxins in the oil can take a lethal toll on aquatic life of all kinds. Exposure to these toxins can also cause genetic damage, liver disease, cancer and harm to reproductive and immune systems. Clean up can take a long time. For example, almost at the one year anniversary of a spill of 840,000 gallons of tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan, clean efforts are still underway. The full extent of the damage usually takes years to unfold. The herring population collapsed in Prince William Sound, for example, three years after the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

We don’t yet know the extent of the damage from this oil spill – or what it will mean for the people and wildlife that depend on the river system. What we do know is that this type of pipeline spill is not acceptable. Exxon says that the oil is dissipating. I worry that means that Exxon is not able to capture the oil to clean it up with the river running so high and fast. In the same way, TransCanada has characterized the 12 tar sands oil spills in just the first year of its Keystone One pipeline as “business as usual.” Surely, this is not a time to be granting a permit to an even more likely to leak pipeline such as the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline to cross the Yellowstone River in Montana. This is a time to be re-examining our pipeline safety regulations and assessing the safety risks of new proposed pipelines such as TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline that would carry even more corrosive, likely to spill and difficult to clean up substances such as tar sands from Canada.

The Keystone XL pipeline would carry tar sands crude from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf Coast of Texas.

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