The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Tierra Curry, (928) 522-3681

Hazardous Keystone XL Pipeline Moves Forward Despite Protests Outside White House

Climate, Endangered Species, Water, Future Generations Threatened by Dirtiest Oil on Earth


The U.S. Department of State today released the "final environmental impact statement" on the Keystone XL Pipeline, advancing the controversial project by choosing its construction as the proposed action. The timing of the release coincides with an ongoing civil disobedience campaign at the White House, where 275 peaceful protesters have already been arrested this week. The 1,700-mile pipeline would carry acidic crude oil from Canada's Alberta tar sands -- widely considered the dirtiest oil on the planet -- to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast. From Alberta to the Gulf, tar-sands oil will hurt endangered species and sensitive habitats and have an inordinate impact on global climate change. Extraction of oil from tar sands generates from two to four times the amount of greenhouse gases as conventional oil production.

"The Keystone XL Pipeline is an environmental disaster in the making," said Tierra Curry, a conservation biologist at the Center for Biological Diversity, which works to save both endangered species and people from the negative impacts of climate change. "The pipeline threatens the survival of at least 20 endangered species, risks contaminating the drinking water of millions of Americans, and spirals us further toward catastrophic climate change."

Endangered animals and plants directly threatened by the pipeline include the whooping crane, piping plover, woodland caribou, least tern, black-footed ferret, red-cockaded woodpecker, American burying beetle, Arkansas river shiner, pallid sturgeon, western prairie fringed orchid, Texas prairie dawn flower and Texas trailing phlox. The pipeline would cross more than 340 perennial water bodies and risk contaminating the Ogallala Aquifer -- the primary source of drinking water for millions of Americans that also provides 30 percent of the nation's irrigation groundwater. It threatens Nebraska's Sand Hills, the largest area of intact natural habitat left in the Great Plains ecosystem.

"It is outrageous that the final environmental impact statement was issued before U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has had time to issue a biological opinion on the many impacts of the pipeline on endangered species -- a gaping hole that highlights the inadequacy of this hasty environmental impact statement," said Curry.

The pipeline will run from the tar sands in Canada through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas. It will add to, and expand, the existing Keystone Pipeline, already plagued by leaks.

"As the disaster in the Yellowstone River showed us this summer, pipelines leak. During the past 20 years, there have been more than 140 significant pipeline spills per year, and there have already been at least 12 spills in the original Keystone's first year of operation," said Curry. "There's no such thing as a completely safe pipeline."

President Obama must give final approval for the pipeline, and following the release of the impact statement and a public-comment period with public hearings, the president will decide whether approving Keystone XL is in the U.S. national interest.

"The construction of this hazardous pipeline is clearly not in the national interest, because it threatens our drinking water, public health and endangered species. The $7 billion that would be spent on this disastrous pipeline should be spent to move America toward a clean-energy future and away from dirty oil," said Curry.

The pipeline is expected to result in the destruction of 740,000 acres of Canada's boreal forest -- a natural carbon reservoir.

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive.

(520) 623-5252