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Nebraska Water Scientists Warn of Oil Pipeline's Risk, Call for More Study

A single study by the U.S. Geological Survey in Minnesota is the sole source for what scientists know about crude oil behavior in aquifers

By Elizabeth McGowan, SolveClimate News

Jun 15, 2011

“TransCanada employees will not walk the pipeline route to identify these types of spills,” Swift continued. “The company will not send people to do ground patrols unless they already know there’s a spill. TransCanada will have (an) aerial flyover once every three weeks, just like the Enbridge flyovers that missed the Norman Wells pipeline leak. The last line of defense will be landowners and nearby residents.”

A TransCanada spokesman, however, labeled Swift’s claims as “completely false.”

Terry Cunha emphasized that the company’s Keystone pipeline is already monitored 24/7 by operators trained to respond to abnormalities. Satellite technology sends information collected from 16,000 data points to a monitoring center every five seconds.

“If a drop in pressure is detected, we can isolate any section of our pipeline by remotely closing any of the hundreds of valves on the system within minutes,” Cunha said in an e-mail. “In each of the incidents we’ve had on the system, our leak detection system identified the issue immediately.”

The amount of oil released in each Keystone spill averaged out to five gallons, he said, comparing it to the same amount used for three oil changes in a pickup truck.

Seeking the Right Balance

For Woldt, his career as an engineer who studies natural systems is about finding a balance between development and the environment. He is convinced both can be achieved if thoughtful people exercise deliberation, understanding and place-based sensitivity.

“That balance of development and environment is what allows us as a society to move forward and realize that we still have to live here,” Woldt said.

He noted that he and Gates wouldn’t have bothered to write their letter to Clinton if they thought the State Department had done its Nebraska homework on that front. With so much research lacking, they both wonder why a rush to construction is necessary.

Woldt then suggested that spending time exploring a unique landscape such as Nebraska’s sandhills is an eye-opener or anybody seeking his bearings or some perspective.

“It’s is an interesting study in and of itself,” he concluded. “If you ever want to feel really small, go out in the sandhills and watch a big huge thunderstorm roll in. That brings about a sense of place and scale of where you are in the universe.”

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Gates and Woldt Letter on Keystone SDEIS.pdf 32.21 KB

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