The Canadian oil and gas company TransCanada hopes to begin building a new oil pipeline that would trek close to 2,000 miles from Alberta, Canada to Texas. If constructed, the pipeline, known as the Keystone XL, will carry one of the world’s dirtiest fuels: tar sands oil. Along its route from Alberta to Texas, this pipeline could devastate ecosystems and pollute water sources, and would jeopardize public health.
Giant oil corporations invested in Canada's tar sands are counting on the Keystone XL pipeline to make the expansion of oil extraction operations profitable: The pipeline would double imports of dirty tar sands oil into the United States.
Before TransCanada can begin construction, however, the company needs a presidential permit from the Obama administration.
Your voice is needed to tell the Obama administration to say “no” to the Keystone XL pipeline and the highly polluting tar sands oil that would come with it.
Dirty tar sands oil
Pollution from tar sands oil greatly eclipses that of conventional oil. During tar sands oil production alone, levels of carbon dioxide emissions are three times higher than those of conventional oil, due to more energy-intensive extraction and refining processes. The Keystone XL pipeline would carry 900,000 barrels of dirty tar sands oil into the United States daily, doubling our country's reliance on it and resulting in climate-damaging emissions equal to adding more than six million new cars to U.S. roads.
During the tar sands oil extraction process, vast amounts of water are needed to separate the extracted product, bitumen, from sand, silt, and clay. It takes three barrels of water to extract each single barrel of oil. At this rate, tar sands operations use roughly 400 million gallons of water a day. Ninety percent of this polluted water is dumped into large human-made pools, known as tailing ponds, after it’s used. These ponds are home to toxic sludge, full of harmful substances like cyanide and ammonia, which has worked its way into neighboring clean water supplies.
Northern Alberta, the region where tar sands oil is extracted, is home to many indigenous populations. Important parts of their cultural traditions and livelihood are coming under attack because of tar sands operations. Communities living downstream from tailing ponds have seen spikes in rates of rare cancers, renal failure, lupus, and hyperthyroidism. In the lakeside village of Fort Chipewyan, for example, 100 of the town’s 1,200 residents have died from cancer.
These problems will only get worse, unless tar sands production is halted. Unfortunately, an area the size of Florida is already set for extraction. Investing in a new pipeline would increase the rate of production, while decreasing the quality of life for indigenous populations.
TransCanada already attempted to cut corners by seeking a safety waiver to build the pipeline with thinner-than-normal steel and to pump oil at higher-than-normal pressures. Thanks to the pressure exerted by Friends of the Earth and allies, the company withdrew its safety waiver application in August 2010.
The threat of spills remains. In summer 2010, a million gallons of tar sands oil poured into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan from a pipeline run by another Canadian company, Enbridge. The spill exposed residents to toxic chemicals, coated wildlife and has caused long-term damage to the local economy and ecosystem.
Heightening concerns, TransCanada's Keystone I pipeline has spilled a dozen times in less than a year of operation, prompting a corrective action order from the Department of Transportation. Experts warn that the more acidic and corrosive consistency of the type of tar sands oil being piped into the U.S. makes spills more likely, and have joined the EPA in calling on the State Department to conduct a thorough study of these risks.
The Keystone XL pipeline would traverse six U.S. states and cross major rivers, including the Missouri River, Yellowstone, and Red Rivers, as well as key sources of drinking and agricultural water, such as the Ogallala Aquifer, which supplies two million Americans.
Refining tar sands oil
After traveling through the Keystone XL pipeline, tar sands oil would be brought to facilities in Texas to be further refined. Refining tar sands oil is dirtier than refining conventional oil, and results in higher emissions of toxic sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide. These emissions cause smog and acid rain and contribute to respiratory diseases like asthma. Communities near the refineries where the Keystone XL pipeline would terminate, many of them low-income and communities of color, already live with dangerously high levels of air pollution. The Keystone XL pipeline would further exacerbate the heavy burden of pollution and environmental injustices these communities confront.
Stopping the pipeline
Tar sands oil is one of the dirtiest fuels on the Earth. Investing in tar sands oil now will delay investments in clean and safe alternatives to oil, such as better fuel economy requirements, plug-in electric cars fueled by solar power, and smart growth and public transportation infrastructure that give Americans choices other than cars.
Soon, President Obama will decide the fate of this pipeline. Tell President Obama to say “no” to dirty tar sands oil.
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Report -- Dirty Business: How TransCanada Pipelines bullies farmers, manipulates oil markets, threatens fresh water and skimps on safety in the United States
Interviews -- Telling their stories: The Fight to Stop the Keystone XL Tar Sands Oil Pipeline
Uncovering oil lobbyist influence -- Read about the intensifying scandal regarding the State Department's Keystone XL review
Infographic -- Keystone XL pipeline corruption investigation
Nationwide organizing -- Learn more about the Tar Sands Action's nationwide organizing
Press releases and related media
Read our Keystone XL controversy news round up from October 14, 2011
Read our Keystone XL controversy news round up from October 5, 2011
Read our round up of Keystone XL controversy news following the release of "smoking gun" State Department documents, our lawsuit against the State Department and the expansion of our FOIA request, October 3, 2011 - October 6, 2011
"For Obama, Peer Pressure from Nobel Laureates," New York Times, September 19, 2011
"Poll finds solid opposition to pipeline," World-Herald News Service, September 19, 2011
"State Department Keystone XL pipeline impacts analysis slammed as inadequate," Friends of the Earth, August 26, 2011.
"Tar Sands and the Carbon Numbers," New York Times editorial, August 21, 2011.
"Dozens arrested outside White House in Keystone pipeline protests," The Canadian Press, August 20, 2011.
"Pipeline from Canada may already have U.S. backing," Los Angeles Times, July 13, 2011.
"Study warns of leak risks of Canada-U.S. oil pipe," Reuters, July 11, 2011.
"Without Keystone XL, oil sands face choke point," The Globe and Mail, June 8, 2011.
"EPA lining up with Keystone XL critics," Lincoln Journal Star, June 7, 2011.
"Perilous pipeline: Will Hillary Clinton give the OK to a massive tar-sands pipeline?" Grist, June 3, 2011.
"Keystone Oil Pipeline: Regulators Block Restart Of Keystone Oil Pipeline, Cite Leaks," Huffington Post, June 3, 2011.
"New Report Reveals ‘Dirty Business’ Practices of TransCanada Pipelines," Friends of the Earth, April 28, 2011
"State Department Releases Supplemental Environmental Analysis on Keystone XL Tar Sands Oil Pipeline," Friends of the Earth, April 15, 2011