Some members of Congress are attempting to accelerate the promotion of the Keystone XL Pipeline (KXL) through an amendment to the Highway Bill. This will allow proponents of the pipeline to evade final environmental review and force approval before finalizing a route. Pro-pipeline lobbyists have assured the creation of jobs and security; however, those claims have been widely contested by experts. Similarly, proponents have argued that the pipeline will create energy independence. There is little guarantee that the oil transported by the pipeline will remain in the United States, meaning KXL may actually increase U.S. gasoline prices. With the abundance of uncertainty surrounding the pipeline, the substantial environmental risks outweigh the improbable gains.
Just how extensive are the environmental risks? Enough for Canada to reject the initial proposal, which had the pipeline transport the oil from Alberta to the Pacific Coast. Canadians were concerned that the pipeline would threaten the people and wildlife residing along the route. While some dismiss the Canadian apprehension as liberal anxiety, it turns out that the Canadians were right. The current pipeline—located in America—spilled more than 12 times in the first year of operation alone.
The most prominent spill was in July 2010, when more than 800,000 gallons contaminated more than 30 miles of shoreline and water in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The damage was so extensive that it has not been fully repaired. Clean-up efforts have cost over $700 million so far. The real cost, however, cannot be measured in dollars alone. The spill has created public health problems and unsanitary drinking water, and wiped out many fish species and wildlife habitats.
If all of these problems are occurring around the small section of pipeline that has already been created, one can only imagine the widespread environmental impacts if the pipeline were to be completed. Any spill along the potential Keystone XL Pipeline would threaten millions of people with the potential effects of toxic spills. Specifically, farmers and ranchers in the West would have a hard time surviving the repercussions of a spill, since the pipeline would likely run right through their land.
While some may contest that Congress has an obligation to pass the Keystone XL Pipeline, due to its potential economic benefits it is evident that the KXL is not in America’s best interest. Instead, Congress should devote time and money to the pursuit of clean and renewable energy sources. Instead of potentially cleaning up the mess the pipeline might create, Congress should concentrate on solar, wind and biofuels—which, unlike the pipeline, would create jobs and security.