Barricading themselves against the White House gate, approximately 3000 determined environmentalists protested TransCanada's Keystone XL tar sands pipeline Sunday morning. The proposed pipeline would cover 2000 miles from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf coast of Texas with plans of several refineries and the international shipping export terminals. The impacts of this agenda are too crucial to ignore and if the proposal is approved it will devastate ecosystems and pollute water sources, jeopardize public health, infringe on native land, and contradict President Obama’s efforts on climate change.
The president’s decision last year to put off the proposed oil pipeline from Canada to Texas has yet again caught the attention of concerned citizens from both countries. The reason behind the postponement of the pipeline project was in part due to the uncertainty over the original route of the pipeline through Nebraska. The original route would have gone through the state’s environmentally sensitive sandhills region and crossover the Ogallala aquifer which is a mammoth underground water supply for two million people. The threat of spills is still prevalent. On July 26, 2010 over a million gallons of tar sands oil poured into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan from a pipeline owned by a Canadian company, Enbridge. The pipeline ruptured and heavy rains caused the water to over flow the dams, carrying oil 30 miles downstream where it was finally contained. A follow up on the leftover oil in the water on Oct. 3, 2012 caused the EPA to notify the company that there was more cleaning up to do further upstream.
While there are many bad effects to our environment, the native people of Canada have cried out against the tar sand oil for years. The Dene and Cree first nations and Métis live in the midst of the tar sand deposits on the Athabasca River basin. The deposits are located upstream and have totally altered the environment. Open mine pitting, deforestation of the boreal forests, and toxic contamination of the water are irreplaceable consequences that will forever haunt humans. Allowing these pipelines will lead to the expansion of tar sands and the genocide of the Dene, Cree, and Métis.
Following President Obama’s inaugural speech, Governor Dave Heineman of Nebraska sent a letter approving the new proposed route from TransCanada. The new route will avoid the sandhills but will still crossover a small part of the aquifer. In Heineman’s letter he said any spills along the new route would be localized and any clean up responsibilities would fall to TransCanada. He also noted the project would result in $418.1 million in economic benefits for the state, plus $16.5 million in state tax revenue from the pipeline construction materials. In other words, subsidized oil companies making more record profits at the risk of contaminating safe drinking water.
So once again we are faced with the question: Are creating unsustainable jobs more important than preserving the land? Is it more important than protecting our health and the health of the future as well?