by Nolan James – Staff Writer
The construction of the Keystone Pipeline XL has caused much controversy in recent times. The Keystone Pipeline already has three major constructions, built by TransCanada, and a fourth has been in the works for many years now. The plans, passed by the House and Senate in 2015, was later vetoed by President Obama, and the Senate failed to override him. However, during his first few days of presidency, Donald Trump decided to go forward with the plans to build the fourth phase, the Keystone Pipeline XL.
The Keystone Pipeline XL is a proposed project for a 36-inch diameter crude oil pipeline extending from Hardisty, Alberta to Steele City, Nebraska, according to TransCanada’s main website. There are many who oppose and many who support the construction of the pipeline, with arguments on both sides. The major group upset with the construction of the pipeline are environmentalists, who believe that the pipeline could potentially lead to much environmental damage and increased climate change.
The first issue environmentalists have is the potential spills of the pipeline. There are many different estimations for the potential spills, which include Dr. John Stanbury of the University of Nebraska, who estimates that the pipeline will have “91 significant spills over the pipeline’s operational lifetime” as opposed to TransCanada’s estimate of “11 significant spills […] over 50 years.”
Dr. Stanbury also claims that the potential damage on the surrounding areas could be devastating. “Contaminants from a release at the Missouri or Yellowstone River crossing would enter Lake Sakakawea in North Dakota where they would adversely affect drinking water intakes, aquatic wildlife, and recreation. Contaminants from a spill at the Platte River crossing would travel downstream unabated into the Missouri River for several hundred miles affecting drinking water intakes for hundreds of thousands of people […] as well as aquatic habitats and recreational activities.”
The second point of contention is global warming. Many environmentalists believe that the pipeline could potentially contribute to climate change and pollution. While even the existence of global warming and humans’ contributions are heavily debated topics, the government has concluded that the pipeline will have “carbon emissions (equal to) less than 1 percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions in the United States,” according to the New York Times. However, when President Obama was considering the construction of the pipeline, the EPA concluded that “construction of the pipeline is projected to change the economics of oil sands development and result in increased oil sands production, and the accompanying greenhouse gas emissions, over what would otherwise occur.”
Environmentalists aren’t the only people upset by the potential construction of the pipeline, however. Many Native Americans protest the construction of the pipeline for its potential to leak into sacred territory. A few Native Americans have actively protested the construction of the pipeline. A story by the Huffington Post detailed the story of a group of Native Americans who set up teepees near the planned construction sites. They interviewed archaeological monitor Keith Fielder, who claimed that “the pipeline threatens culturally sacred lands.”
One of the major draws of the construction of Keystone Pipeline XL was the jobs it would create. TransCanada predicted that the construction of the pipeline would create 20,000 jobs – 13,000 in construction and 7,000 in manufacturing. However, the State Department has
estimated that only 3,900 jobs in manufacturing would be created, and that only 35 permanent jobs would ultimately be created, according to the New York Times.
Another obstacle has arisen in the construction of the pipeline. One of the other three constructions spilled, according to CNN, a total of 210 thousand gallons of oil. The pipeline was shut down immediately. Brian Walsh, who spoke on behalf of South Dakota’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources, claimed that “there were no initial reports of the oil spill affecting waterways, water systems, or wildlife.”
The pipeline has generally been positively received by the public. Polls such as that of Washington Post, CBS, the Pew Center, and USA Today show that the public generally approves of the construction of the pipeline. However, the most recent survey by the Pew Center, taken in February of 2017, showed that its popularity has dropped, with 42% for and 48% against. The Keystone Pipeline XL has had a lot of obstacles preventing its construction, and much controversy surrounding it, so it still is undeterminable whether it will be built or not.