By Amy Lester, Oklahoma Impact Team
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Fears over TransCanada's Keystone XL crude oil pipeline are on the rise for some Oklahoma landowners and environmentalists.
"I'm not confident at all. I have no confidence in TransCanada," said RoseMary Crawford, Project Director for the Center for Energy Matters. "I'm personally fighting to stop this pipeline."
TransCanada wants to expand its Keystone pipeline that currently ends in Cushing all the way to the Gulf Coast. The company's fighting some Oklahoma landowners in court, using eminent domain to gain access to an easement, for the pipeline, on their land. At the same time, environmentalists question the company, the impact, and the safety of the pipeline.
"We're used to safe pipelines, we're not used to pipelines that have this kind of track record, to me, that's a huge issue," said Crawford.
Crawford's talking about the company's current pipeline, Keystone, that started operating a year ago. Twelve oil spills have occurred so far. Four hundred barrels leaked in North Dakota. Smaller failures happened in South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. Earlier this month, the US Department of Transportation ordered the company not to restart the pipeline without addressing safety concerns, saying, "... the continued operation of the pipeline without corrective measures would be hazardous to life, property and the environment."
The EPA is also concerned about the proposed pipeline's environmental impacts on groundwater, wetlands, migratory birds and the air. The EPA recently sent a letter to the US State Department asking them to take a closer look at the environmental impacts. The agency is critical of the State Department's analysis, so far.
As for the company, TransCanada project representative Jim Prescott insists the pipeline will not negatively affect the environment.
"We take safety of the pipeline seriously," said Prescott. "We believe that this project, Keystone pipeline, can be designed and built or operated as safe, or safer than any project, any pipeline project in the United States."
Prescott points to the US State Department's draft environmental impact statement, to back up his argument. It says,"...the proposed Keystone XL Project would result in limited adverse environmental impacts during both construction and operation."
Prescott also says all spills involving the original pipeline occurred at pumping stations, not on the actual pipeline.
"The system works, it works the way we said it would work," said Prescott. "We're aware of the change in pressure in the incident in minutes. We shut down the pipeline within minutes. We isolated that spot where the problem was within minutes. We responded quickly and efficiently, the way we said we would."
Will environmental concerns stop the pipeline from being built? That's up to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to decide. She must approve a presidential permit for construction to begin.
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