KXL threatens US environment -Not energy -Not climate

Keystone XL is is a threat to US environmental integrity. Its Senate vote is near.

The bill forcing development of the Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline build is about to be set before the president.   The proponents say it is about (A) permanent jobs and lots of them, and (B) oil independence for good ol’ U.S. of A.   It is about neither.

Bridger Poplar System kills life

Fig 1  Fish kill in Yellowstone River from 2015  leak of Bridger Pipeline’s Poplar System

The American issue is truly about the transport of dangerous but profitable product through delicate environmental structures.

Pipelines leak.

Here is a good discussion about a very recent demonstration:   Does the Yellowstone River Oil Spill Foreshadow The Future… ?   Posted by , care2.com.   Fig 1 shows a bit of its toll.

The issue as a bullet list –

  • Transport of processed tar sands involves solvents to keep the stuff fluid (dilbit, see our Index for other KXL discussions)
  • These solvents are chemically active hydrocarbons, they attack most things.
  • These are things that would destroy you, were you to drink some.
  • When oil pipelines break, solvents are the first things locals have to deal with, the tar-like residue is another, either to be cleaned up later, or labeled “unimportant.”
  • Sometimes consequences extend far beyond the folks initially bothered by the issue.

Fig 2 shows the location of this month’s (2015 Jan 17) Leakage. Bridger Pipeline’s Poplar System 83 is near the route for KXL, it dumped into Montana’s Yellowstone River.  The pipeline originated in the Canadian Bakken fields and carries the product to Baker, Montana.  The line was last inspected 2 years ago.

KXL , Bridger Poplar System, ExxonMobile Silvertip

Fig 2   KXL proposed route through Montana, showing 2 recent leak sites.

KXL for Canadian international access, not U.S. security.

KXL is about getting Canadian tar-sand oil to international markets.  It is about boosting the incredible wealth accumulation of a very few ultra wealthy families.  If the oil transport system were about US energy security, we would see upgrades to the two refineries in Illinois that receive the current flow.  The best place to refine oil needed by the East coast and Midwest cities is in the center of the country – this makes sense.

If XL were about energy security, even Cushing Oklahoma would re-open its refineries.  Right now, Cushing is Oil-Central in America, the home of Koch Industries and the place where the WTI (West Texas Intermediate) index is set.  It receives oil from many pipelines  and sends it back out via many other lines.  It even sends oil via existing lines to the Texas coast. So why not Cushing for America’s new refinery center?  The answer has to be: it is not near the shipping ports on the Gulf of Mexico.

Look at Fig 2 again.  The current Keystone has a history of leakage after only 3 years of operation.  The XL phase will cross the Yellowstone River, and will continue on through key aquifers from Wyoming to Texas.  It uses larger diameter pipe to handle higher volume per day and much higher pressure to push the dilbit slurry faster.  To handle the increased wall stresses, they will use thinner wall material to make the system cheaper.  This is the recipe for disaster.  If (when) Keystone leaks, XL will be horrible.

US Politics  Jan 2015

KXL has Bi-Partisan Support which our Kill-The-Beast Republicans trumpet as a sign of KXL is wonderfulness.  The 114th congress has been one of the most divided in my memory, with Republicans supporting their Tea Party extremists by blocking or attempting to block every action the President has proposed. Right now, the Senate Republicans are 4 votes away from getting an unstoppable veto-proof majority.

Joe Mancin

Fig 1  Sen Joe Mancin, D W Va

Bi-partisan ought to mean something that has not been extremized (as we say in math).  We examine one of the “bi partisan” Democrats who supports Tea Party agenda.

Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat from West Virginia, is sometimes featured as a pro-KXL poster child.  With only a little study, it is clear why.

Mr. Manchin ranks in ideology as the most right wing of all the Democrats in the Senate; the Democrat who works closest with the obstructionist Republicans; the Democrat who has cosponsored the most bills with the Republicans.

He has voted fewer than the median number of times for a senator of his tenure.  His non-appearances have come in spurts, some quarters he missed as many as 10%  of the roll call votes, some quarters he has been at every one.  His voting record shows him voting with his party only 33% of the time, the other 2/3rds of his votes were with the obstructionist Republicans.

Is Mancin a typical bi-partisan? Maybe. And there are others.  Those 4 remaining votes are frightening.  This last weekend (2015 Jan 24-25)  Charles and David, of the Koch family of inherited wealth, held a beauty contest for people who want access to their truly astonishing fortune.  Does this “conference” mean we will see new votes for Koch’s KXL?  (Koch Industries is the main partner in the U.S. portion of the venture and hold significant equity in the Canadian shale oil fields in Alberta. It seems reasonable to call it their KXL.)

Strong urgency … Stop the dangerous pipeline, email your local Senators.

Anything is better than Keystone-XL.

click for all our discussions about the Keystone XL pipeline

Even rail transport, as dangerous as it has been in the past,  is under new safety regulations.  There is nothing to stop us from mandating track upgrades between Canada and the Gulf, if they are to carry oil.  (Well, a Republican administration would block that, of course.)  If we do not allow KXL, the Canadians will find a different way to transport the fluid across its own lands, if they so wish.

Americans cannot influence what our Northern neighbors do by using KXL as a tool, but we can influence the potability of our own water and viability of our own wildlife.

Update: 2015 Jan 27: Good Editorial in the Minneapolis Star Tribune of Jan 26.  Makes our fundamental point but in their voice.  KXL cannot be safe, not might not be safe.  Good point – the pipe will be imported from China or India.  Glad they mentioned the Enbridge line spill into the Kalamazoo River 60 miles from my home – still not remediated, by the way.


Charles J. Armentrout, Ann Arbor
2015 Jan 26
Listed under Natural Resourcesa post in the  Keystone XL  thread
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About LastTechAge

I am a physicist with years of work in fusion labs, industry labs, and teaching (physics and math). I have watched the tech scene, watched societal trends and am alarmed. My interest is to help us all improve or maintain that which we worked so hard to achieve.
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