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Press Room:  For Immediate Release 
Explore, Enjoy and Protect the Planet



May 28, 2009

Kristina Johnson, Sierra Club (415) 977-5619
Kevin Dowling, WORC (406) 252-9672
Marty Cobenais, Indigenous Environmental Network (218) 760-0284
Chuck Laszewski, MCEA (651) 223-5969
Dave Dowling, United Steelworkers (618) 452-1130

Farmers, Steelworkers, Tribes, Rural Citizens and Environmentalists Warn of Risks from Dirty Oil Pipelines
Pipelines from Canada Threaten America's Water, Farmland and Communities

Washington, D.C.: Farmers, Steelworkers, tribes, rural citizens and environmentalists are all warning that construction of three massive pipelines designed to carry dirty oil from the Alberta tar sands into the United States would threaten communities across the West and Midwest. An additional pipeline would carry chemical thinners from the U.S. to Canada. Today, a coalition of groups sent letters to the Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration urging that the agency not approve safety plans for the pipelines.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is considering three new U.S. pipelines, and previously approved another:
-The Enbridge Alberta Clipper Pipeline would run from Alberta to Wisconsin via North Dakota and Minnesota.
-The Southern Lights Diluent Pipelines would connect Manhattan, Illinois with Alberta via Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota, and would transport diluent (a chemical thinner to facilitate tar sands crude oil flow) from U.S. refineries to Canada for blending with tar sands crude.
-The TransCanada Keystone I pipeline would run more than 2,000 miles from Hardisty, Alberta through the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri and then into Illinois, with a spur into Oklahoma.
-The Keystone XL pipeline would carry heavy tar sands crude from Canada through Montana, the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma into Texas.

Local landowners are concerned that PHMSA isn't requiring adequate safety measures for the pipelines where they run through rural communities.

“Those of us in rural Montana need the same safety protections as anywhere else,” said Chad Taylor, a McCone County, Mont., rancher. "TransCanada shouldn’t cut corners. They should use the same pipe thickness, pressure, and safety level throughout the proposed route.”

Citizens have also expressed concern that the agency has not given them an opportunity to weigh in on emergency response plans for the pipelines, which pose a threat of oil spills.

“Our rural volunteer fire department is still waiting on Keystone’s emergency response plan,” said Paul Mathews, a volunteer firefighter from Cogswell, N.D., whose farmland is crossed by the Keystone I Pipeline. “In my opinion, as a firefighter, the pipeline should not operate until the fire department has adequate time to study the plan and acquire any necessary equipment to deal with an accident.”

The United Steelworkers have also challenged the government's permit review process on the safety of thin-wall pipe sought by TransCanada for the Keystone XL pipeline, citing safety concerns.

“The company does not address what internal corrosion may occur from the higher mineral content existing in tar sand bitumen,” said Tom Conway, International Vice President of the United Steelworkers (USW).  “We also question the use of thinner pipe allowing operation at a greater percentage of maximum operating pressure that will have less ability to withstand corrosion over time.”

Members of tribes have expressed concern about the threat of oil spills and contamination of water sources along the route.

"We are greatly concerned about the contamination that could occur if a spill were to happen within the waterways of the Leech Lake Reservation," said Marty Cobenais of the Indigenous Environmental Network. "We are also concerned about the potential of a spill in the Cass Lake area, where bald eagles fish and nest."

The tar sands oil carried by the pipelines is considered the dirtiest oil on earth, both because its extraction has destroyed large swaths of boreal forest in Canada, and because its production creates more global warming pollution than any other type of crude oil.

"In addition to threatening rural communities, these pipelines would support expansion of tar sands oil, the dirtiest fuel on earth. The tar sands industry ruins the precious forests and birds of Canada. It also creates a staggering amount of global warming pollution," said Sierra Club Legal Director Pat Gallagher. "We shouldn't let America's farmland and waterways become the latest casualties of the tar sands industry."

For more information on tar sands oil and pipelines, visit:


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