Canadian tar sands pipeline threatens Climate, public health, water and lands
PSR added the voice of health professionals to those calling
on President Obama to reject the proposed Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline.
President Obama will
make a decision shortly on a proposed 1,700-mile pipeline to carry Canadian
bitumen, a toxic and corrosive petroleum sludge, from Alberta, Canada to the
Texas Gulf Coast, where it would be refined and exported overseas.
PSR urges its members to call the White
House and ask President Obama to deny the permit for the Keystone pipeline.
reliance on fossil fuels
“This pipeline would
dangerously prolong the world’s reliance on fossil fuels,” stated PSR
Environment & Health director Barbara Gottlieb. “It would push us closer to a global warming point of no
NASA scientist and global warming expert James Hansen said
in a letter published in June of this year, “if the tar sands are thrown into
the mix [of major energy sources], it is essentially game over” for stabilizing
times more greenhouse gases
Because bitumen is dense and sticky, it must
be heated or diluted in order to be pumped. Its extraction and transportation requirements make tar
sands oil up to three times as greenhouse gas-intensive as traditional oil.
With world oil supplies declining, a concern for health as
well as national security should prompt our nation to develop clean, carbon-free,
renewable energy sources, not additional fossil fuels.
Extraction, processing and
transportation not only make tar sands oil more greenhouse gas-intensive; they
also threaten land, water, forests and wildlife.
sands are often mined in pristine forests. The process requires from two and a half to four barrels of water for each barrel
of bitumen produced, and contaminates the water with toxic
pollutants including phenols, arsenic, mercury, carcinogens such as polycyclic
aromatic hydrocarbons, and naphthenic acids.
The contaminated water is disposed in giant
containment ponds, where much of the toxic pollution remains suspended for
years in the water. In 2008,
migrating ducks landed on a containment pond at a Canadian tar sands mining
site. Some 1,600 ducks became
coated with oil and mining waste and died.
A pipeline slicing through the center of the
country leaves the U.S. vulnerable to oil spills, including the Ogallala
Aquifer which provides up to 30% of our nation's agricultural water.
One tar sands spill has already taken place
in the U.S. In July 2010, 840,000
to one million gallons of corrosive tar sands crude oil spilled from a pipeline
into a creek that feeds Michigan’s Kalamazoo River. The oil damaged wildlife, marshlands, farmland and back
yards before being contained. The
pipeline was owned by Canadian tar sands giant Enbridge.
Page Updated November 4, 2011