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We are disappointed that Sen. Max Baucus has urged the State Department to quickly approve the Keystone XL pipeline that would take Canadian tar sands oil from Alberta through Montana to the U.S. Gulf Coast without taking the time to address our concerns. These concerns include whether the pipeline is really needed; alternatives that would mean more jobs and less pollution; impacts to our land, water, and climate; impacts to tribes; and pipeline safety.

We strongly believe our concerns warrant full and careful consideration as the State Department goes through the permitting process for this project. This should not be done hastily, especially since industry projections for future tar sands production suggest that Keystone XL would not be filled for at least a decade. Also, recognizing America's increasing leadership in the transportation sector on energy efficiency, cleaner fuels, and electric vehicles, we believe the need for this pipeline is highly questionable.

Especially now, it makes no sense to fast-track another pipeline. This year we have seen the largest oil spill in our nation's history in the Gulf of Mexico and one of the largest oil pipeline spills in Michigan's Kalamazoo River. In September, a gas pipeline explosion killed at least seven people and destroyed 40 homes in San Bruno, California. On average, there is a pipeline accident about every other day nationwide.

TransCanada has already had at least three leaks in its brand-new Keystone I pipeline, and there is evidence the company might have used defective steel in its construction. The company used steel on about half of the pipeline from the same mill that supplied pipe found to be defective in other pipelines constructed during the same time period. Landowners along the route of Keystone I have been asking for an emergency response plan to deal with pipeline accidents for more than a year, but TransCanada still has not provided one.

Keystone XL could spill tar sands oil into the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers, which are sources of municipal drinking water and irrigation for Montana farmers and ranchers and vital fisheries. Because the public has been excluded, and based on TransCanada's record, we cannot trust that the company will have an adequate plan to protect Montana's land and water from an oil spill.

Our trust in TransCanada has been further eroded by what we feel is a lack of consideration for Montana landowners and concerned stakeholders. In addition to refusing to provide an emergency response plan, the company has responded to landowners who have expressed concern about having a risky pipeline in their property by threatening to condemn their land, using the power of eminent domain, before the project has received federal or Montana state approval.

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We hope Sen. Baucus will join us in asking the State Department to ensure that these critical questions and concerns are addressed.

Darrell Garoutte of Wolf Point is president of the Northern Plains Pipeline Landowners Group. Kathy Hadley of Deer Lodge is a board member of the National Wildlife Federation.

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Darrell Garoutte of Wolf Point is president of the Northern Plains Pipeline Landowners Group. Kathy Hadley of Deer Lodge is a board member of the National Wildlife Federation.

 

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