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Pipeline Corrosion and Safety Issues Take Spotlight in Keystone XL Debate

Canadian regulators question the report, and TransCanada defends safety record, as a key U.S. senator endorses approval for the controversial pipeline

By Elizabeth McGowan

Feb 18, 2011

"The report only considered spills greater than 26.3 gallons, which are large enough to be tracked by regulators in both the United States and Alberta. While other differences between these lines may contribute to the significant disparity of the Alberta system having 16 times the rate of spills due to internal corrosion as the U.S. system, this high rate certainly is a warning sign of diluted bitumen’s potential risks to pipeline safety."

In a issued Wednesday, ERCB acknowledged that its initial statement was based on an earlier version of the report.

However, the release continued, "the NRDC's response to the ERCB news release this afternoon did nothing to correct the flaws in their report." ERCB maintains that Alberta pipelines transporting diluted bitumen have not had a higher failure rate than similar U.S. pipelines and that diluted bitumen is not more corrosive than conventional crude oil.

"The NRDC mention in their response that they would like to 'continue a dialogue' with the ERCB," the release concludes. "The ERCB would be pleased to engage in a dialogue to assist the NRDC in understanding the facts on Alberta's oil sands."

Safety Legislation in the Hopper

Casey-Lefkowitz told SolveClimate News that Senate legislation geared at enhancing pipeline safety is an "excellent first step" toward the type of government oversight that should be mandatory.

Earlier this month, Democratic Sens. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey and Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia introduced the to increase inspections, require steeper civic penalties for violations, and require advanced technology such as automatic shutoff valves and excess flow valves.

About 2.5 million miles of pipelines that transport oil, natural gas, and hazardous liquids crisscross the country, according to a news release circulated by Rockefeller, chair of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, and Lautenberg, chair of the committee’s surface transportation subpanel. Close to 40 pipeline incidents each year since 2006 have resulted in fatalities or injuries, their research reveals.

The measure would strengthen the authority of the Department of Transportation's (PHMSA) through fiscal year 2014 by requiring:

  • All local and state government agencies and their contractors to notify "one-call" notification centers before digging
  • Time limits on accident and leak notification by pipeline operators to local and state government officials and emergency responders
  • Pipeline operators to make information and inspections available to the public on the PHMSA’s Web site
  • Authorization for phased-in hiring of additional pipeline inspectors and pipeline safety support employees

"As far as reading the tea leaves on how fast Congress will work on pipeline safety, you can place your own bet on how long these things will take," NRDC spokesman Josh Mogerman said. "A lot depends on if the public will tolerate the slow pace of progress in Washington or demand serious changes now."

Lugar Endorses Pipeline

On the same day that NRDC challenged the safety of Keystone XL, Sen. Richard Lugar announced his support for the project.

"Boosting trade with Canada offers tremendous opportunity to improve our energy security, and I encourage the State Department to expeditiously approve the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline," the Indiana Republican Wednesday at the in Washington. "This pipeline is critical to American efforts to enhance the reliability of our oil supplies."

Democrats often cite Lugar, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as a crucial energy ally because of his deep knowledge of world affairs.

Who's invested in Canadian oil?

Every barrel of tar sands oil contributes three times as much CO2 as normal crude from those evil monsters in the MidEast.

Ten years from now, if approved, the pipelines will be owned by low-maintenance spinoff companies, who will declare bankruptcy and throw the expense of cleanups on the taxpayers of Canada and the USA.

Acidic, sulfurous oil sludge and solvent here and there. What's not to like?

Build the refineries in Canada.

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