Testimony in Opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline

September 28th, 2011

Testimony in Opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline Before the United States State Department (Sept. 28, 2011, Austin)

By David Weinberg, Executive Director, Texas League of Conservation Voters

In the debate over the proposed Keystone Pipeline XL project, there are significant reasons to oppose its approval based solely on significant safety concerns associated with a 1,700-mile heavy-oil pipeline.  The proposed pipeline would traverse sensitive lands, waterways and public spaces across Canada and the U.S, including the Ogallala Aquifer here in Texas all the way up to the Dakotas.

Let’s be clear, opposition and concern over the Keystone Pipeline XL Project is not limited to the environmental and conservation communities I represent, nor should it be viewed in strictly partisan terms.

U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns, a Republican, faults the environmental review and has asked the U.S. government to explore other options.  “We have only one Ogallala Aquifer,” Sen. Johanns said, “and we must take seriously our obligation to protect it.”

The Senator from Nebraska echoes feelings I think you would find from communities and residents all across the plains, those that value and depend on the Ogallala for water.

But, I would also suggest the reason to oppose this $7 billion environmental, public safety, health and energy debacle is even more basic.  Consider the energy source itself.

Tar sand is an absolutely terrible way to generate energy.

Squeezing oil out of tar sand is a wasteful and dirty process.  To get a single barrel of oil from tar sand, you must process between 2 tons to 4 tons of tar sand with 2 to four barrels of water.

The massive pits required to develop tar sand destroys forests and wildlife and leaves a massive blight on the landscape, especially in the boreal forest of Alberta where the tar sands associated with the Keystone XL project originate.   Already, the Alberta Water Research Institute spends $15 million to prevent toxins from running off tar sands’ tailing pools into the nearby public water supplies.

Mining tar sands – and the necessary processing it must undergo to convert to gasoline – releases three time more carbon dioxide than traditional oil production.

Let’s be clear, alongside coal, there are few energy sources that are so dirty, so destructive to our natural environment and pose significant health risks quite like tar sands.

Doesn’t the tar sands price tag with respect to its far-reaching environmental, public safety and public health impacts make it a horrible return on investment for our country? Are there not better options?

Yes, we can meet our domestic energy needs through a cleaner combination of fuel sources.  Abundant and cleaner natural gas is one worthy option, and the long-term viability of solar, wind and geothermal energy make them an important part of our energy mix.

As we look to meet our country’s energy needs, tar sands and the Keystone XL pipeline is simply not the answer.

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