The pending Keystone Pipeline XL project has turned into one of the largest environmental debates currently in America. TransCanada has proposed to lay a pipeline from their facilities in Canada, across the United States, to be refined by Shell Refineries and shipped off to other countries. This proposal is highly disliked by thousands of Americans and thought to be the final nail in the climate change coffin.
The proposal supporters, a mix of both democrats and republicans, have turned to hidden amendments in Energy Bills coming before the Senate. Senators Joe Hoeven, R-N.D., and Mary Landrieu, D-La., inserted an amendment to the “Shaheen-Portman” energy measure, stating that the Keystone XL project is in the best interest of the nation. This statement, if not caught, would result in a possibly monumental approval of the Canadian project by President Obama.
Anthony Swift, an attorney for the Natural Resource Defense Council, talking about the inappropriate insertion of this amendment stated that “Senators should reject this measure. The proposed tar sands pipeline would increase carbon pollution and make climate change worse,” he said.
Americans speaking out against this project have joined together with 350.org to rally, yet again, against Keystone and the dangers it brings to America. Organizers all across the country plan to march on September 21st in an attempt to let the government know that America does not agree.
Standing tall in this fight is investor and advanced energy advocate, Tom Steyer. Steyer is producing a series of four part, 90 second videos, that will look into Keystone and the problems related to these pipelines. America has witnessed first-hand in recent years through the pipeline bursts in Mayflower, Arkansas to the BP gulf oil spill in 2010, that oil companies cannot be safely trusted to monitor regulations when dealing with these chemicals.
After thousands of people, and countless natural resources have been destroyed, the stability of our nation’s oil and gas passages have come into scrutiny. The Mayflower incident, nearly six months ago, floats freshly in the minds of the American public.
Mayflower, a small town in Arkansas, was victim to a pipeline burst on March 29, 2013, that sent thousands of barrels of crude tar-sands oil throughout the town and into nearby marshes and streams. Even after what Exxon calls, “an extensive cleanup operation,” residents are still reeling from the after effects of the spill.
This, and many other pipeline incidents have brought both the oil and gas companies, and the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Administration,(PHMSA) under scrutiny.
Statements from all angles of the oil and gas industry over the last few years have attempted to calm the public and assure them that our country’s pipelines are secure and the regulation of these is constant and tight. Even the Obama administration has assured the public that our pipelines are safe and, last year, called for a push to expedite the building of new pipelines.
However, this July, Jeffery Weise, head of PHMSA’s Office of Pipeline Safety admitted that his ability to insure pipeline operators are following correct procedure is minimal and pushed for better industry self-regulation. Weis, commenting on the fine’s that oil companies run the risk of accumulating, said “Do I think I can hurt a major international corporation with a $2 million dollar penalty? No.”
With companies like Exxon Mobile pulling in just under $10 billion dollars in their fourth quarter earnings, a $2 million dollar fine is a relative drop in the bucket.
New regulations for pipeline safety can take up to three years to complete, possibly longer given PHSMA’s small regulation budget of $108 million to cover all 2.6 million miles of pipeline. Currently social awareness is PHSMA’s only plan to reach industry in an attempt to self -regulate safety.
If the budget currently does not allow for constant regulation of current pipelines, how will the country monitor the Keystone XL project, a pipeline with the ability to devastate this country if problems arise?
There is currently no word on if and when a new policy for safety will be released as well as where the President currently stands on the Keystone XL proposal.