Keystone Pipline

WHY IT’S CONTROVERSIAL?: Alberta's tar sands are considered to have the 'dirtiest' oil on the planet. Unlike traditional crude which gushes out of a well, tar sand oil needs to be dug up and essentially melted with steaming hot water before it can be refined into useable petroleum products. This means much more fossil fuels need top be burned, further contributing to climate change. It also pollutes near by lakes and strip mines millions of acres of once pristine forest. TransCanada argues that buried pipelines are a far safer alternative to transporting oil than ships or trains and claims to have "one of the best safety records in the industry."

Critics note the existing Keystone pipeline developed a dozen leaks in its first year of operation, including a 21,000 gallon spill in North Dakota. The EPA(Environmental Protection Agency) sent a letter to high officials at State, blasting Draft Environmental Impact Statement(DEIS) it published in March that had reflected positively on the pipeline project. The environmental agency rated the DEIS as EO-2. It stands for "Environmental Objections-Insufficient Information." That could be seen as a C- on the EPA's grading scale.

“ Belogolova, Olga. "Keystone XL Pipeline: Just the Facts." N.p., n.d. Web. 06 May 2013.”

ECONOMIC IMPACT?: The $7 billion proposal was welcome news to a nation suffering from the 2008 financial crisis and the worst economic downturn in decades. The state Department estimates that the 5.3 billion project will create 42,000 temporary jobs over the one to two year construction period. TransCanada argues that bringing another 830,000 barrels of oil per day from friendly, neighboring Canada would reduce US dependence on the Middle East and Venezuela by as much as 40 percent.

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Exxon Arkansas Tar Sands Pipeline Spill Site An independent study co-published by the Faulker County Citizens Advisory Group and Global Community Monitor reveals that, in the aftermath of ExxonMobil’s Pegasus tar sands pipeline spill of over 500,000 gallons of diluted bitumen ( dilbit) into MayFlower, AR, air quality in the surrounding area has been affected ny high levels of cancer causing chemicals.

Roughly four weeks after the spill took place, many basic details are still unknown to the public, according to recent reporting by InsideClimate News questions include what exactly caused the spill, how big was the spill exactly, and how long did it take for emergency responders to react to the spill, to name a few.

Some of the chemicals found in the aftermath of the spill include benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, n-hexane, and xylenes. Breathing in ethybenzene and benzene cab cause cancer and reproductive effects, breathing in n-hexane can cause nervous system damage, numbness in the extremities, muscular weakness, blurred vision, headaches and fatigue.

All of these chemicals are hazardous air pollutants (HAPs), "regulated under the 1990 Federal Clean Air Act amendments as the most toxic of all known airborne chemicals," as explained in the press release summarizing the study.

"People are obviously suffering and experiencing health symptoms from chemical exposure related to the oil spill. State and Federal need to step up immediately to document and prevent any further health issues associated with the Exxon oil spill. Agencies need to share information in a manner to ensure informed decision making and enable access to necessary resources such as medical treatment for chemical exposure.” -Ruth Breech, Global Community Monitor

With a decision still looming on the future of the TransCanada Keystone XL tar sands pipeline by the Obama administration , Mayflower is yet another sordid case study of the hazards that accompany tar sand pipelines wherever they may be.