agriculture * food * energy * environment
By Robert Pore
A Minnesota tar sands oil pipeline spill Wednesday has alarmed conservationists who are protesting construction of a much bigger and riskier pipeline planned to cross six states, including Nebraska, said Duane Hovorka, Executive Director of the Nebraska Wildlife Federation.
Hovorka said the Minnesota pipeline, owned by Enbridge Energy, carries tar sands crude from Canada, through Minnesota to Wisconsin. He said an unknown amount of crude oil leaked out of a 1-inch crack into a wetland area where the pipe is located.
The leak, Hovorka said, was first discovered and reported by local fire fighters. Enbridge Energy reportedly did not know of the leak until the fire crews called and notified them. Though oil transportation companies like Enbridge claim to have safety regulations and mechanisms in place to immediately detect problems, Hovorka said leaks like this can occur and not be noticed for days.
”Concerns about potential leaks like this are mounting in regard to a new tar sands oil pipeline that has been proposed to cut through Montana, crossing the Missouri River as it travels south to Nebraska where it will cross the Niobrara River and carve up the Nebraska Sandhills region on its way to Texas refineries,” Hovorka said. ”The Sandhills region is particularly vulnerable to pipeline spills because of the porous soil and the fact that the Ogallala Aquifer lies beneath its surface.”
He said the idea of having a pipeline running through the state, putting wildlife habitats, farm lands and public water resources at risk of leaks similar to what has occurred in Minnesota makes one question the value of this fuel source, “…especially when we can be investing in clean energy and conservation instead.”
“When also taking into consideration the environmental destruction that is required to produce tar sands oil to begin with – an energy intensive process that emits three times more greenhouse gases than conventional oil, requires two barrels of water for every barrel of oil, and the clearing of boreal forest for wastelands of tailing ponds, it becomes clear that tar sands is the wrong energy choice for Americans,” said Jenny Pelej, Field Coordinator with National Wildlife Federation.
The state is accepting comments on a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Public hearings will be held at three locations in Nebraska where verbal comments will be accepted. In addition, written comments will be accepted through the end of May, unless a comment period extension is given. The hearings will be held:
May 6, 7 – 9 p.m. Fairbury, Nebraska, Rock Island Railroad Depot, 910 Second St., Fairbury, NE
May 10, 7 – 9 p.m., York, Nebraska, York Auditorium, 211 E. 7th Street, York, NE
May 11, 7- 9 p.m., Atkinson, Nebraska, Atkinson Community Center, 206 W. 5th Street, Atkinson, NE
The draft EIS can be reviewed and written comments submitted by visiting www.keystonepipeline-xl.state.gov