Column: A pipeline to nowhere

  • Posted: Monday, February 24, 2014 12:01 a.m.

This past year has seen a series of environmental disasters. Three hundred thousand without potable water in West Virginia. The contamination of the Dan River by Duke Power’s toxic coal ash and arsenic releases. And less reported, a massive toxic waste spill from a pipeline owned by Texas-based Apache Corp that killed “every plant and tree” in a 1000 acre area of Alberta. Pipeline leaks and spills are nothing new, we just rarely hear about them.

You don’t have to Google search very far to find a long mind boggling list of spills, resulting in massive contaminations. Those include the Yellowstone River spill that saw a severed Exxon Mobil Corp. pipeline release 63,000 gallons, A NuStar Energy LP pipeline that spilled 4,200 gallons of anhydrous ammonia into the Missouri River in Nebraska, and an Enterprise Products Partners LP pipeline that released 28,350 gallons of gasoline into the Missouri River in Iowa. To say or think that any pipeline is not a real threat to America’s water resources is to be blind to the reality and facts.

The fact is, installers have been digging up parts of the new southern segment of the Keystone Pipeline that only recently have been installed. Little reported or mentioned by proponents of the pipeline is the fact that the existing leg of the Keystone has spilled more oil in its first year than any other first-year pipeline in U.S. history .

Oil expert, energy advisor to former President George Bush and writer Matt Simmons said water would be the next oil. Before his untimely death, he had begun a national campaign to call attention to our water resources at risk. As we have seen recently, controlling and protecting water resources around the country is an ongoing battle, from drought riddled California, to the outrage by local residents in South Carolina when a mega farm was given license to withdraw almost a billion gallons a month from the Edisto River. Allowing our national waters – surface, aquifer and groundwater – to become contaminated with well known poisonous and carcinogenic wastes will create a national crisis. We should be considering where our clean water will come from once we have allowed our sources to become undrinkable. Ask the people of West Virginia if you don’t think this is possible.

Tar sands oil contains some of the most toxic and carcinogenic chemicals known, such as ammonia, benzene, cyanide, phenols, toluene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, arsenic, copper, sulphate, and chloride. Installing yet another large pipeline, when existing ones have well documented histories of breaking and leaking, across, through, and over the heartland of America’s main aquifers, is madness. One of the world’s largest aquifers, the Ogallala, that supplies water for millions of acres of corn, wheat and soy production in America’s heartland, lies in the path of the XL Pipeline. Thousands of farmers in Nebraska, who know what’s at risk, have protested and said no to its passage through this most important area of America’s agriculture.

And what is this pipeline for? For jobs? A few thousand jobs at best is expected and certainly not permanent ones. To lower the price of gasoline? An outrageous and easily provable lie. Any finite product like oil will only increase in cost in a world greedy for more oil, and the production of tar sands oil is very expensive. To lower our dependence on foreign oil? Another lie. All oil goes into the global market and gets sold globally. Tar sands oil will not belong or be controlled by the U.S. Those who try to tell you it will come to the U.S. are lying or at best spinning the truth. No impact on the environment? See above.

From the BP Gulf disaster, to the “Freedom” Industry poisoning of Charleston’s drinking water, to Duke’s latest criminal negligence and contamination of the Dan River, its apparent corporations and the lax government in charge cannot and do not protect our precious diminishing clean water. It time we put an end to our real addition: the addiction to dirty, dangerous and life-threatening toxic industries that are polluting our planet and making it uninhabitable. We need a “Manhattan project”-type commitment to a future of clean energy, moving rapidly away from energy sources that threaten the water we drink and the air we breathe. Instead of being worried about our dependence on foreign oil, we should be worried about our dependence on oil at all. We should be weaning ourselves now from this finite and dirty energy source, one that now requires we rip up and destroy the world’s great boreal forests, destroying habitats, species, wetlands, and water sources, and sickening the people who live around them. We are America. We could be a shining example of the world’s energy future through innovation and development of clean energy. Instead we are continuing and promoting the old, dirty ways that have no future. What a sad statement and legacy to leave our children and grandchildren.

Susan Corbett is chair of the South Carolina Sierra Club, which aims to preserve the state’s ecosystem and resouces.

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