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


August 5, 2010

Contact: Kristina Johnson
(415) 977-5619

After Michigan Disaster, Foreign Pipeline Faces Increased Scrutiny
Company Tries to Skirt Safety, Put American Water, Air, Health at Risk

Washington, D.C. - Following the oil pipeline disaster in Michigan last week that poured one million gallons of crude into the Kalamazoo River, a Canadian pipeline company's proposal to build a massive new pipeline faces increased scrutiny. The Keystone XL pipeline would carry tar sands oil-the world's most toxic oil-into the U.S., crossing one of the most important water sources in the country, the Ogallala aquifer, which supports one-third of U.S. crops and millions of Americans.

TransCanada, the company behind the Keystone XL pipeline, has applied for a safety waiver which would allow them to operate at higher than standard pressure. Worse, TransCanada is currently planning to build the pipeline using cheaper, thinner than average steel, which would increase risk of ruptures and spills. Following the Michigan disaster, TransCanada is rumored to temporarily amend the safety waiver though they are still committed to using thinner, cheaper steel which is estimated to save the company roughly a billion dollars. The Michigan spill is the latest of more than 2,500 significant pipeline incidents that have occurred in the United States over the last ten years, resulting in 161 fatalities and 576 injuries.

EPA head Lisa Jackson recently cited a long list of concerns about the safety of the pipeline, prompting the State Department to delay its decision on whether or not to approve permits for the project.

Statement of Sierra Club Representative Kate Colarulli:

The Keystone XL pipeline is facing more and more scrutiny every day. That's not surprising. This Canadian oil project threatens American water, air, and farmland. The oil disasters in the Gulf and Michigan have shown us just how risky oil is. Companies like TransCanada are starting to realize they won't be able to fool Americans much longer. We've seen the consequences of lax safety and cutting corners and our tolerance for oil industry tricks is running out.

This latest move by TransCanada is an open admittance that a safety waiver is a bad idea. The fact that the company is still trying to get away with using thinner, cheaper, more risky steel for its pipeline shows that they are not taking safety concerns seriously.

Even if this pipeline is run at standard operating pressure, rather than the dangerously high pressure TransCanada has been pushing until today, we are looking at a high risk of spills, in a region that just won't be able to sustain the damage. This pipeline is carrying the dirtiest oil in the world. If and when it leaks, this pipeline will threaten to poison the most important source of water in America's breadbasket. In addition to the risk of spills, this pipeline will create worse than average air pollution when it is refined in American cities.

Canadian tar sands oil is an environmental catastrophe. It requires clear cutting ancient boreal forest and using huge amounts of energy and water to extract tiny bits of crude from the earth. Communities living near the project report high rates of cancer, and whole flocks of birds have died after landing on the project's toxic lakes. Tar sands oil production creates at least three times the global warming pollution as conventional oil production.

President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton still have the power to stop this dangerous project. Instead of importing the world's most toxic oil and putting American health at risk, we should be investing in clean energy that won't run out, like wind and solar power and electric vehicles.

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