Facts continue to show how Keystone XL Pipeline will be safe and protect the environment along the entire route.
As the public comment period regarding the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (DSEIS) prepared by U.S. Department of State (DOS) for the Keystone XL Pipeline project (KXL) came to a close on April 22, a letter from the Assistant Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) caught people’s attention.
It was important for TransCanada to take the time to give the letter a thorough review — by experts both inside and outside the company.
As TransCanada indicated when this letter came out, there are no new issues identified that relate to current laws or practice for approval of an oil pipeline that crosses an international border.
Let’s not forget: More than 12,000 pages of documents have been published on KXL — including four federal environmental reviews in the past five years. The EPA has been a cooperating agency in all of the previous reviews and has been closely involved in each one.
While most pipeline projects take about two years to go through the review process, KXL has been part of the public agenda for almost 1,700 days, more than four-and-a-half years, making KXL the most exhaustively studied, cross-border pipeline ever.
While the EPA plays a role in providing comments and oversight into an application such as this, so do almost two dozen other local, state and federal agencies. Each of these agencies has a wide array of backgrounds and experiences, so the DOS is able to get the best input possible before a decision on KXL’s Presidential Permit is made.
In its letter to the DOS, the EPA failed to take into account a number of key facts about KXL — especially when it comes to safety. Safety is TransCanada’s top priority.
KXL will have a state-of-the-art leak detection system, and we will also evaluate new and evolving leak detection technologies to potentially augment the best-in-class leak detection capabilities of its current systems.
There will be 21,000 sensors along the entire length of the pipeline route, including the Gulf Coast Pipeline, which is currently under construction in Texas and Oklahoma. Sensors, in addition to 16,000 sensors on the original Keystone route, send round-the-clock real-time data via satellite about the operating conditions inside the line.
If an alarm goes off or our highly-trained operators detect something that warrants investigation, the pipeline will be shut down within minutes. And until TransCanada is satisfied everything is safe, the line is not re-started.
In fact, the previous federal environmental review stated that with the additional safety measures TransCanada has agreed to adopt, KXL will “result in a project that would have a degree of safety over any other typically constructed domestic oil pipeline under the current code.”
And while leak detection is essential, leak prevention is even more important. That’s why, in 2011 and 2012 alone, TransCanada invested more than $1.4 billion in our company’s safety, preventive maintenance and pipeline integrity programs. This is proactive work we do every day, making sure that we take reasonable steps to prevent incidents from happening in the first place.
Making sure our pipelines operate safely for decades not only makes good business sense, it’s just common sense.
The EPA letter refers to an “average crude oil” to compare against the “Canadian crude” that KXL will deliver, but this hypothetical “average crude oil” — if there were such a thing — isn’t what Keystone XL will displace.
Different crude oil blends vary from field to field. For example: Heavy oils produced in California have higher emission profiles than heavy oil from Alberta’s oil sands. The light sweet oil that KXL will transport comes from the U.S. Bakken formation. The EPA ignored these facts and failed to recognize that the oil transported through KXL will primarily displace the heavy crudes from Mexico and Venezuela. And study after study shows one simple point: Oil is oil.
As leading climate scientist Chip Knappenberger noted in his response to claims made by professional activists, “the carbon dioxide emissions produced from Keystone XL are only a (shrinking) drop in the bucket of global carbon dioxide emissions.”
The EPA also recommends that the U.S. involve itself in ways to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the Canadian oil sands. This ignores Canada’s fundamental sovereignty, as well as that of the provinces and local governments that are already leading significant environmental progress in their jurisdictions.
If a Canadian province wanted to “involve itself in ways” to reduce GHG emissions from coal in the State of Georgia (for example), neither that state nor the U.S. government would welcome such “involvement.”
For the record, Alberta’s oil sands have strict regulations. The Government of Alberta implemented GHG regulations in 2007 (the first jurisdiction in North America to do so), requiring a mandatory 12 per cent reduction in GHG emissions intensity for all large industrial sectors, including existing oil sands, or payment in lieu (current carbon price is $15/tonne). Since 2007, these regulations have resulted in GHG reductions of 23 million tonnes, the equivalent of taking 4.8 million cars off the road.
The EPA did take issue with the notion that if KXL is not approved, then producers would find a way to move that product to market. But the reality is that with the delay of new pipeline infrastructure, companies are already looking for ways of getting their product to market.
Rail Theory Forecasts reported 19,000 coiled and insulated rail cars (capable of moving about 10.5 million barrels of heavy crude oil) were ordered by Canadian producers to carry heavy crude, scheduled to be delivered in 2014.
Sixteen rail transload terminals are being built/expanded in Western Canada by six companies. In the U.S., the transportation of crude oil by rail is already 55 per cent higher than in 2012.
So the facts show that the oil KXL will transport will find its way to market because it is needed — by all of us — for products that heat our homes, power business, fuel our vehicles and provide the energy needed to move consumer goods throughout North America every day. And statistics show that pipelines remain the safest way to get it there.
The real issue in this debate about a single oil pipeline is whether or not KXL benefits Americans and is in the country’s national interest.
Does it meet America’s rules and regulations to operate? We believe that the answer to all of these questions is yes. Our customers — including many who are U.S. Gulf Coast refiners — believe the answer is yes. And a growing number of Americans are saying yes to KXL as well. And that’s why TransCanada is committed to working through the regulatory review process and will continue to answer questions as they arise.
We will also continue to work with the EPA and other agencies to reduce GHGs from pipeline operations, as part of the Global Methane Initiative, established by the U.S. in 2004.
For more information, read TransCanada’s full technical response to the April 22, 2013, EPA letter, (PDF, 1.8 MB).