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TransCanada Whistleblower: Keystone XL Pipeline Not Safe

by Mike Klink

There has been a lot of talk about the safety of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.Workers clean up oil spilled outside Ludden Pumping Station, TransCanada Keystone tar sands pipeline, Sargent County, North Dakota, May 9, 2011. (Photo by Pete Carrels)

I am not an environmentalist, but as a civil engineer and an inspector for TransCanada during the construction of the first Keystone pipeline, I've had an uncomfortable front-row seat to the disaster that Keystone XL could bring about all along its pathway.

Despite its boosters' advertising, this project is not about jobs or energy security. It is about money. And whenever my former employer Bechtel, working on behalf of TransCanada, had to choose between safety and saving money, they chose to save money.

As an inspector, my job was to monitor the construction of the first Keystone pipeline. I oversaw construction at the pump stations that have been such a problem on that line, which has already spilled more than a dozen times. I am coming forward because my kids encouraged me to tell the truth about what was done and covered up.

When I last raised concerns about corners being cut, I lost my job — but people along the Keystone XL pathway have a lot more to lose if this project moves forward with the same shoddy work.

What did I see? Cheap foreign steel that cracked when workers tried to weld it, foundations for pump stations that you would never consider using in your own home, fudged safety tests, Bechtel staffers explaining away leaks during pressure tests as "not too bad," shortcuts on the steel and rebar that are essential for safe pipeline operation and siting of facilities on completely inappropriate spots like wetlands.

I shared these concerns with my bosses, who communicated them to the bigwigs at TransCanada, but nothing changed. TransCanada didn't appear to care. That is why I was not surprised to hear about the big spill in Ludden, N.D., where a 60-foot plume of crude spewed tens of thousands of gallons of toxic tar sands oil and fouled neighboring fields.

TransCanada says that the performance has been OK. Fourteen spills is not so bad. And that the pump stations don't really count. That is all bunk. This thing shouldn't be leaking like a sieve in its first year — what do you think happens decades from now after moving billions of barrels of the most corrosive oil on the planet?

Let's be clear — I am an engineer; I am not telling you we shouldn't build pipelines. We just should not build this one.

Pipelines can and do stand the test of time, but TransCanada already has shown that they cannot. After working on engineering projects all over the world, I can tell you that a company that cared about safety would not follow these types of practices.

If it were a car, the first Keystone would be a lemon. And it would be far worse to double down on a proven loser with Keystone XL.

The stories of how TransCanada has bullied landowners in Nebraska rings true to me. I am living it, as well. After repeatedly telling the contractor and TransCanada about my concerns, I lost my job.

But I couldn't watch silently as a company put innocent people at risk with a haphazardly built pipeline. I am speaking out on behalf of my children and your children.

Oil spills are no joke. We need to do all we can to protect our water and our food. I am glad the Nebraska Legislature stepped up to protect Nebraskans. I can only hope that they stand up to TransCanada. We should all take a hard look at the damage that this pipeline will do. I should know; I've seen it in person.

Please do not sell out to foreign oil and foreign suppliers. There is no guarantee the product will stay in the United States, only the toxic waste. God bless the United States and those of us who still believe in the fact that her people matter.

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