Is There A Fight Brewing Over the Keystone XL Pipeline?

The Keystone XL Pipeline has been a point of contention for a little over 6 years. While it technically has bipartisan support, the majority of that support is coming from Republicans with a select few Democrats voicing their approval. After two famously inactive Congress sets, the 114th GOP controlled Congress set to work, discussing a vote on the Keystone XL Pipeline which the White House promptly threatened to veto.

A Keystone Pipeline already exists. It extends from Alberta, Canada, through Steel City, Nebraska, and Cushing, Oklahoma, terminating in two spots — Patoka, Illinois, and Port Arthur, Texas, with a connection extension being built to Houston. The existing portion of Keystone is currently transporting light American crude. What is being proposed by TransCanada is essentially a duplicate line from Alberta to Steele City, but taking a different route and carrying heavy Canadian crude. Keystone XL would make “stops” in oil rich American territories and add those products to the nearly 700,000 barrels being transported daily. This heavy crude would be oil sands or tar sands oil. This is where a good part of the controversy arises.

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Tar sands oil is ugly. It’s a heavy, gooey, peanut-butter type substance that requires a great amount of energy and/or chemicals to extract usable oil from. Extraction can generate huge amounts of carbon pollution. Some reports find this form of bitumen is much more caustic and corrosive than normal crude oil, making the possibility of the Keystone XL Pipeline leaking very possible. Critics point to a tar sands spill (by Enbridge, a competitor to Keystone’s owner TransCanada) in Michigan, that has been called one of the most costly onshore spills ever. It’s been over three years, Enbridge has spent over $1 billion, and the spill is still not cleaned up. The proposed route of the XL Pipeline crosses some very valuable land, including farms and the Ogallala Aquifer, an underground water supply essential for people and crops in Nebraska. As the Inquisitr previously reported, a South Dakota tribe of Sioux Indians would consider approval of the pipeline to be an act of war against the tribal nation.

Despite heated local opposition and an online collaborative of over 1 million dissenters, polls show the majority of Americans to be in favor of the pipeline. This is potentially because of the belief that the small amount of oil being transported by the Keystone XL Pipeline may positively affect prices at the pump. Others are excited about the prospect of new jobs. TransCanada, the company that wants to build the Keystone XL Pipeline, claims that the project will create around 40,000 jobs — but whether those will be domestic jobs, or long term ones, remains to be seen. Most of those jobs will be in constructing the pipeline. A very small number, potentially less than 100, will be required to monitor and maintain the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Congress is reassured by TransCanada’s promises that their newest technology will prevent spills from the Keystone XL Pipeline like the one seen in Michigan. They are so confident that they intend to pass this legislation regardless of White House disapproval. Senator John Hoeven (R-N.D.) has said that the GOP will go so far to get the Keystone XL Pipeline measures passed that they will attach it to appropriation bills or other must-pass legislation if necessary.