Concerns about Canada to Texas pipeline

Houston Chronicle:

From the ranches of East Texas to Capitol Hill, folks suddenly have the jitters about a proposed pipeline that would bring Canadian crude to the refineries of Houston and Port Arthur.

The $7 billion project, called Keystone XL, would increase America's access to crude from Canada's tar sands,as offshore crude exploration faces scrutiny amid a runaway oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and a legal fight over a federal offshore drilling moratorium.

But critics warn that the oil flowing through the 2,000-mile pipeline would come with a high environmental toll, leaving behind toxic sludge ponds and destroyed forests while producing large amounts of gases linked to climate change.

Ranchers also worry about the possibility of groundwater contamination, while some Houston-area residents say refining the crude will further foul the region's already dirty air.

"This isn't a hard thing for people to understand," said Matthew Tejada of the advocacy group Air Alliance Houston. "We're picking up Canada's trash and dumping it in Texas."

TransCanada Corp., the Canadian company building the pipeline, counters that the pipeline would provide a politically stable and reliable source of crude without the risks of drilling in the Gulf.

The increased Canadian shipments likely would offset declining imports from Mexico and Venezuela, TransCanada officials and analysts said.

"The significant benefit is energy security," said Robert Jones, the TransCanada vice president in charge of the Keystone XL pipeline project. "If we don't look at Canada as a stable source, then we'll have to look more at the Middle East."

...

I think the concerns can be addressed with regulations on how the crude is processed once it gets here. The company will be responsible for making sure it arrives safely and does not foul the property over which it travels. It also has a built in concern that none of it be spilled or wasted along the way. If it is economically feasible, it sounds like a good project. If the oil has a heavy tar content, it is possible that a by product of road material could be made from it. Tar is used for chip seal roads in rural areas and could also be used in the production of asphalt.

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